White House Open Data Innovation Summit: Open Data's Full Potential Is Just Being Realized

As part of the Data Foundation's fourth annual open data conference, Data Transparency 2016, held Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Washington, D.C., the White House hosted its first-ever Open Data Innovation Summit. The goals? To highlight the Obama administration’s work in opening U.S. government data, to celebrate a number of data sharing initiatives and to discuss plans to continue open data progress going forward.

U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith opened the event, discussing how the federal government has released over 200,000 data sets under the Obama administration so far, clearing the path for a vast number of collaborative open data projects across the federal government.

Scott also discussed the importance of open data projects in helping the federal government move away from legacy systems to “more secure, open, transparent and efficient technology.”

The event highlighted uses of government open data to promote government efficiency and effectiveness, to drive innovation and economic opportunity, and to improve public health and welfare.

Daniel O’Neil of Ad Hoc LLC, an organization that has enabled a number of federal government agencies to scale new technologies faster, said the federal government and the public at large are at a unique point in history wherein the full potential of open data is just being realized. 

“We are on the front lines of how to use open data to make real change,” said O’Neil, stressing that efforts must be made to continue moving forward “no matter what comes next.”

During a panel featuring federal CTOs both current and past — Aneesh Chopra, Todd Park and Megan Smith — Smith pointed out that open data is increasingly becoming a global initiative, opening up opportunities for countries to collaborate to solve large global challenges. Smith said French President François Hollande recently announced plans to host an open government summit in France this summer.

Shaun Donovan, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, thanked audience members that work on open data initiatives, and stressed how open data can help improve the lives of American citizens and is vital to a more transparent and open democracy.

“We’re opening data for the American people to spur innovation, foster economic growth and enhance our competitiveness,” he said. “Open data is now a driver to our global competitiveness.”

Donovan pointed to multiple examples of how open data is enhancing competitiveness, including how open data from the Department of Energy is allowing researchers to collaborate more effectively, advancing innovation in the private sector and serving as foundation for new ideas in energy grid modernization.

“By sharing energy data in open, machine-readable formats," he said, "the Department of Energy has enabled innovators to use data in new and exciting ways to move the needle on solving global energy concerns."

Donovan said there is still more work to do, however, especially around privacy protection and creating new data governance structures.

The White House Open Data Innovation Summit was held at the Washington Convention Center, and was co-hosted by White House, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the General Services Administration and the Data Foundation.