On the Creation of the U.S. Open Data Institute

Today in London, Waldo Jaquith, a great colleague and fellow Champion of Change, announced the launch of the U.S. Open Data Institute.  The goal is “to encourage governments and businesses to adopt open data standards as a way to promote economic growth, innovation and social change”.

Baseball, America

Here’s more from the Knight Foundation press release on the launch (“Data transparency effort – successful in U.K. – to be tested in U.S.“):

Oct. 28, 2013 – A team of American transparency advocates will test a British model for open data standards in the United States, with $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


The U.S. team is guided by an advisory board consisting of Aneesh Chopra, former U.S. chief technology officer, Daniel X. O’Neil, executive director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, and Max Ogden, a noted open data developer and alumnus of Code for America.

“The U.S. has a fast-growing open data community. What the institute’s model can do is to further create a culture of open data, ensuring that members are connected and more organizations have the capacity to participate,” Jaquith said.

In a blog post discussing the organization (“New project aims to connect the dots in open data“), Waldo lays out the opportunity pretty well:

I’m convinced that we already have many of the right people, organizations and businesses working on open data in the United States. They just don’t know about each other. (The organization certainly won’t duplicate any of the efforts of the folks in this space.) And we have nearly all of the necessary software, but so much of it is only known within its narrow domain, despite its broad applicability. The institute will connect all of these entities, promote the work of those who are leading the way and provide supportive, nonjudgmental assistance to those who need help. We don’t have all the answers, but we know the folks who do. We want to amplify their message and connect them to new collaborators and clients.

The work is right in front of us. I’m excited to be a part of this important new effort led by a true pioneer and real worker, Waldo Jaquith. Nothing about Waldo is theoretical or hand-wavy. He has been a practitioner of open data for years.

As he notes in his post, he’s been pursuing this idea since Spring of this year. Max Ogden and I participated with Waldo and leaders from the UK-based Open Data Institute in a working group at the Aspen Forum on Communication and Society titled “Beyond the Tools: Connecting Citizens and Their Governments“.  Here’s a pic of some of the group working (best viewed large):

Aspen Panorama

One output were these notes, for which I was a typist: Brief Description of a Possible US-Based Open Data Institute.

As Waldo alludes above, there’s been a river of creativity in this space. At this point in the open data movement, we are in sore need of syzygy and alignment. I believe the U.S. Open Data Institute can help us get there. I look forward to more typing.