Webinar Recap: Delivering the Next Generation of Open Data with OpenGov

September 8, 2017 – OpenGov

Our recent webinar, Delivering the Next Generation of Open Data with OpenGov, featured open data veteran and OpenGov Director of Open Data Joel Natividad, who discussed the history and potential for using open data within public sector data internally.

The Power of Next Generation Open Data

Open data is powerful. McKinsey & Company has identified more than $3 trillion in annual untapped economic value that could be generated using open data. But they note that government is the key to unlocking that potential: “Sitting at the nexus of key stakeholders — citizens, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) — government is ideally positioned to extract value from open data and to help others do the same.

A decade ago, initial open data efforts centered around the shift from paper to electronic. Information became increasingly available as spreadsheets and PDFs, and files moved from paper or desktops to links online. The information was there, but it remained static.

The next generation of open data, in practice, is about “opening” the data – ensuring that it is actually useful, usable, and used. In this context, governments are key players in making better use of their data as they sit at the nexus of stakeholders: citizens, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Local governments are uniquely positioned to leverage the data they already collect and produce. Those solutions can increase operational effectiveness and efficiency.

Analyze Boston – Lessons Learned

When polled, half of the webinar participants said their agencies were already managing some type of open data portal. The webinar revisited the City of Boston’s journey from their previous open data portal to their cutting-edge, next generation open data portal Analyze Boston.

Boston’s first open data portal debuted in 2012 with an off-the-shelf platform that simply moved data online. According to their Chief Data Officer Andrew Therriault, it was static, visually unattractive, confusing for non-financial individuals, and suffered from inconsistent data quality. Boston recently reimagined and redeveloped its open data portal, making the move to OpenGov Open Data™, which is powered by open source CKAN.


Boston’s experience illustrated two high-level, yet practical recommendations for meaningful next generation open data use:

  1. The portal is just the beginning. Context enhances usability.
  2. Drive internal use. Making internal operations data-driven changes culture and drives efficiency.

OpenGov’s Take on Next Generation Open Data: Technology and People

When open data is useful, usable, and used, it can become “open knowledge.” Natividad said the key to that transformation is innovative technology that is:

  • Open Source. Open data should be based on open standards and allow for “innovation without permission,” meaning various parties can build upon a common foundation for widescale innovation results.
  • A True Platform. A true platform has a rich, extensible API that supports the development of robust applications and new functionalities.
  • A Vibrant Ecosystem. Software solutions must come from a wide community of partners and be built “with, not for” public sector partners.
  • Best of Breed. Optimized solutions work with the tools agencies already have.
  • Future-Ready. Modern technology allows for continuous improvement and innovation.

All of that technology is in service of people. Next generation open data for the people is:

  • Internally Useful. Culture change comes from solving challenges staff face by supporting performance management, enabling secure data sharing, and enhancing communication.
  • Usable by All. Data must provide answers, and solutions should build on existing, legacy financial systems.
  • Data as Infrastructure. Platforms must be user-friendly, interoperable, configurable, and adaptable.
  • A Continuous Process. A never-ending process should be agile and supported by a community of practitioners.

Next generation open data treats data as a strategic asset, as demonstrated by Natividad in an example out of the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). The Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, operated by Pitt, is empowering citizens by transforming large parcel data sets into usable information. Instead of requiring expensive GIS software and a technical background, the open data portal’s parcel property tool enables anyone to answer questions about property (e.g., house hunting or land use) in three simple steps.

Next Generation Open Data Applied

At OpenGov, our goal is to power more effective and accountable government by going beyond publishing data to make information actionable. This happens through technology and with people.

OpenGov Open Data is built on open source CKAN (Comprehensive Knowledge Network) as a hybrid cloud, which allows local agencies to embrace and customize the platform in stages with our methodology and best practices. Contributions by OpenGov and others in the CKAN community constantly improve data solutions, and OpenGov is helping shape the roadmap for open source open data by contributing back to the code base. For example, our team OpenGov used customer use cases to make significant code contributions in the latest CKAN 2.7 release.

Natividad’s demonstration of OpenGov Open Data highlighted OpenGov’s development of a semi-automated data dictionary – a functionality that OpenGov has contributed back to the CKAN community. The CKAN ecosystem – in this and other examples – ensures that agencies aren’t trapped by or beholden to the designs and priorities of one organization.

We also recognize that financial data is critically important to public sector agencies, and our work, therefore, strives to bring financial and non-financial closer together to enhance performance management efforts. For instance, OpenGov Open Data includes financial transparency portals that map to organization’s chart of accounts.

If you were unable to join the live webinar, be sure to watch it now for additional takeaways. Our related executive brief, Discovering Next Generation Open Data, is also available for free download. It includes practical approaches to open data and case studies government entities of all sizes.