Open data has become such a popular buzzphrase that even the U.S. Congress is paying attention.
In 2014, Congress unanimously approved the first-ever open data law. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) requires the federal government to adopt a standardized data format for all of its spending information.
More reforms are on the way. Congressional leaders have proposed, or soon will, new bills to transform financial regulatory reporting, election campaign filings, and law itself from documents into open data.
These reforms are happening because policymakers are starting to understand how open data changes the world. When government information is expressed using standardized fields and formats, instead of old-fashioned documents, that makes life easier for everybody. Citizens can hold their government accountable; internal managers can use analytics to make better decisions; companies' software can automate reporting so compliance becomes cheaper.
But building that understanding better and faster is nobody's full-time job. Nobody is doing the research that could support future open data reforms.
For one example, countries like the Netherlands have adopted a single open data format for regulatory reports to multiple regulators, a concept called Standard Business Reporting. But nobody has ever written a report on how Standard Business Reporting might work in the United States. For a second example, the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI), if it were adopted as the standard identification code for U.S. companies, could match together corporate information from across dozens of different subject areas - a boon for investors, a boost for regulators. But nobody has ever written up the compelling case for the LEI. For a third example, the DATA Act passed, in part, because Congress assumed it would transform the way federal chief financial officers run their agencies, by making management analytics much cheaper. But nobody has ever conducted a survey to ask all the CFOs whether they agree.
That's why a core group of pro-open data companies has come together to fund the Data Foundation.
The Data Foundation's primary job, its full-time job, is to create the missing body of research that explains how open data can change things - and probably also illuminates the areas where it doesn't.
The Data Foundation's other tasks flow naturally. We'll run educational programming to teach the skills government leaders need. We'll host events that introduce the different kinds of people who need to know one another to make the open data transformation happen.
Open data is changing the world. But the change could be faster. We're here to speed it up. Join us.