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Did you know that the government can track potholes using smartphone technology?

That’s just one way local governments are taking advantage of the enormous amount of data collected and supplied through open data. But according to the Data Innovation Day session “Open Data, Civic Hacking, and Data-Driven Government,” there are plenty of other ways civic entities are using data.  And marketers should pay close attention, because the availability of this data is changing the world for business and government alike.  

President Barack Obama believes that data is a national asset. But is there a difference between the way federal and local governments approach the topic of open data and data-driven government? 

According to Maksim Pecherskiy, chief data officer for the city of San Diego, Project Open Data and Data.gov are two good examples of the federal government’s open data initiative, but besides these programs and the U.S. Census, the local governments seem to be doing more with open data, civic hacking and data-driven governments than the federal government.

It’s hard to believe that less than a decade ago, we did not have the ability to collect such large amounts of data and put it to good use. However, Cameron Kerry, distinguished visiting fellow at Brookings, believes the general public has finally begun to recognize the value of data.

This has been made apparent by actions taken by governments of all levels. The Department of Commerce recently appointed its first chief data officer. The city of Boston created a data hub, and is working with MIT on a data challenge. The value has been recognized, and local and federal agencies are taking action.

The initial results of open data, civic hacking and data-driven governments are not perfect. However, the possibilities are endless, and progress is being made. The progress can be seen when evaluating other countries compared to the United States.

“When it comes to American data, we are in great shape … better loans, building things more effectively, etc. When you start going out to other countries, you start seeing the dearth of that information and how hamstrung those countries really are by not releasing that information, making it available to people to ingest, and use and act on,” said Kerry.

Even though there is room for improvement, the benefits of open data are apparent — from helping economic development agencies in Puerto Rico become more efficient and effective to boosting the economy of a developing nation in Africa to tracking Ebola.

Marketers too stand to make more precise decisions than they ever dreamed possible. With open data, for example, highly localized information allows marketers to customize their messaging to be relevant to consumers in specific regions of the country.

These are just a few ways that open data, civic hacking and data-driven governments are allowing for improved decision-making — and changing the world for government and business alike.

Explore more data-driven issues and gain new, actionable insights and skills at the Email Evolution Conference 2015, February 2-4, the Marketing Analytics Conference, (MAC), March 9, and Mobile Marketing Day, March 12.