[@OKFNau] FW: Open Data a Boon for Entrepreneurs

Markus Buchhorn markus at intersect.org.au
Fri Jan 10 00:10:17 UTC 2014

FYI. I'd take issue with some of the comments (I think open (govt) data
predates Pres. Obama :-) ), and perhaps the commercial outcomes are not a
huge driver for most public agencies, but still...


> Open Data a Boon for Entrepreneurs
>    Government Data Creating Business Opportunities for Tech-Savvy
>    Entrepreneurs
> By Angus Loten
> The Wall Street Journal
> January 8, 2014, 5:22 p.m. ET
> More cities are putting information on everything from street-cleaning
> schedules to police-response times and restaurant inspection reports in
> public domain, in the hope that people will find a way to make money off
> data.
> Supporters of such programs often see them as a local economic stimulus
> allowing software developers and entrepreneurs in cities ranging from San
> Francisco to South Bend, Ind., to New York, to build new businesses based
> the information they get from government websites.
> When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an executive directive last
> to launch the city's open-data program, he cited entrepreneurs and
> as important beneficiaries. Open-data promotes innovation and "gives
> companies, individuals, and nonprofit organizations the opportunity to
> one of government's greatest
> assets: public information," according to the Dec. 18 directive.
> A poster child for the movement might be 34-year-old Matt Ehrlichman of
> Seattle, who last year built an online business in part using Seattle work
> permits, professional licenses and other home-construction information
> gathered up by the city's Department of Planning and Development.
> While his website is free, his business, called Porch.com, has more than
> employees and charges a $35 monthly fee to industry professionals who want
> to boost the visibility of their projects on the site.
> The site gathers raw public data--such as addresses for homes under
> renovation, what they are doing, who is doing the work and how much they
> charging--and combines it with photos and other information from industry
> professionals and homeowners. It then creates a searchable database for
> to compare ideas and costs for projects near their own neighborhood.
> Mr. Ehrlichman raised $6.25 million from angel investors in October 2012,
> expects to hire nearly 80 more workers by the end of 2014, as he continues
> expand the online service nationally.
> The origins of city open-data programs can be traced back to a December
> Obama administration directive to federal agencies to post more public
> information online. Since then, some 175 federal agencies--including the
> Defense and Justice departments--have posted more than 88,000 data sets on
> data.gov, the federal government's open-data site. And more than 43 cities
> have followed suit.
> Some city agencies remain reluctant to turn over data, concerned about
> competition from the private sector, among other issues, says Bruce Blood,
> city of Seattle's Web team manager, who oversees its open-data website.
> really a cultural change for these agencies, so you have to do some arm-
> twisting," he says.
> Since 2010, the city has put more than 200 data sets online, including
> rates, 911 calls and the precise locations of bicycle racks. Mr. Blood
says he
> hopes to post at least 75 more data sets on Seattle's website this year.
> Natalia Carrizosa, a legislative analyst at Montgomery County's Office of
> Legislative Oversight in Maryland, says another issue is the lack of
> for storing digital records, which can make it difficult for smaller tech
firms to
> expand from city to city.
> Ian Kalin, director of open-data services at Socrata, a Seattle-based
> firm that makes the back-end applications for many of these government
> data sites, says he's worked with hundreds of companies that were formed
> around open data.
> Among them is Climate Corp., a San Francisco-based firm that collects
> and yield-forecasting data to help farmers decide when and where to plant
> crops. Launched in 2006, the firm was acquired in October by Monsanto Co.
> (MON -3.50%), the seed-company giant, for $930 million.
> Overall, the rate of new business formation declined nationally between
> and 2010. But according to the latest data from the Ewing Marion Kauffman
> Foundation, an entrepreneurship advocacy group in Kansas City, Mo., the
> of new business formation in Seattle in
> 2011 rose 9.41% in 2011, compared with the national average of 3.9%.
> Other cities where new business formation was ahead of the national
> include Chicago, Austin, Texas, Baltimore, and South Bend, Ind.--all
cities that
> also have open-data programs. Still, how effective the ventures are in
> jobs is difficult to gauge.
> One wrinkle: privacy concerns about the potential for information--such as
> property tax and foreclosure data--to be misused.
> Some privacy advocates fear that government data that include names,
> addresses and other sensitive information could be used by fraudsters to
> victims.
> Jerry Paffendorf, chief executive of Detroit-based Loveland Technologies,
> concerns about privacy and fraud dog his online service, Why Don't We Own
> This?, or WDWOT?, a website that tracks the city's home foreclosure
> among other data.
> The firm, which has six employees, uses government data to create and sell
> custom applications for clients, ranging from nonprofit groups to land
> and real-estate developers, charging upward of $10,000 a year. It is
> working on a contract with the Michigan housing authority to track
> data for 380,000 Detroit residences.
> A free site, WDWOT? makes some of these data sets available to the public,
> including the locations of distressed properties and it charges a $25
annual fee
> for membership for those seeking custom tools. But last year a local
> group complained that the data could be used by scammers to target
> homeowners seeking emergency cash.
> Mr. Paffendorf says there is no indication that the data is being misused,
but he
> adds: "I get their concern. You don't know how people are going to use any
> information."

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