OP-ED: OPEN DATA IS RE-DEFINING GOVERNMENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Perhaps it’s the constrained fiscal reality, punctuated by threats of government shut-downs. Or maybe it’s the ideological wars in Washington, playing out most recently in the battle over privacy and security sparked by revelations about the PRISM surveillance program. Whatever the reasons, the public sector in the 21st century gets a bad rap. As Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media, has said, government is seen by legions of citizens from coast to coast as a bloated and inefficient ATM that takes in taxes and delivers mediocre services in return. Even a muscular liberal like Paul Krugman of The New York Times calls the federal bureaucracy “an insurance company with an army.”

But a new movement, spurred by digital and social activism, is taking root to renovate and redefine the public sector. … Opening up data, says Todd Park, the U.S Chief Technology Officer, “means taking data that is sitting in the vaults of the government, that the taxpayers have already paid for, and jujitsuing it into the public domain as machine-readable fuel for entrepreneurship and innovation.”