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Title: The Key to the Cities of Tomorrow: Leveraging Sustainable Local Open Data Ecosystems to Unlock Civic Innovation and Improve Government Accountability
Authors: Chang, James
Advisors: Felten, Ed
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: My thesis explores drivers for success in open data initiatives in U.S. cities and the extent to which releasing government information can foster innovation and commercial activity. Following the federal government’s 2009 Executive Order promoting transparency, open data initiatives at the local have proliferated widely – first in existing innovation hubs, but now also in small and mid-sized municipalities. Local open data has unique social and economic value because it impacts the daily lives of citizens in highly tangible ways. So far, ideas and technological solutions generated from open data have demonstrated the capacity to improve government services, yield insights about key policy issues, and produce useful consumer-facing applications. As more cities join the movement and the pioneers hone their existing policies and technological capacities, the challenge is shifting from focusing on transparency and accountability benefits of opening data to striving to unlock scalable economic value. This thesis assesses the national landscape and strategies of fostering innovation around open data, with a particular attention to New York City and San Francisco. In summation, my findings are: * In defining what information qualifies as open data, governments should adopt an “open by default” stance to be as transparent, inclusive, and focused on high-value datasets as possible. Moreover, to optimize the public’s technical experience interacting with the data, city governments should work to ensure accessibility, scalability, and interoperability. A common feature of success is strong executive branch commitment to openness, which is necessary to coordinate data release protocols across various departments and hold them accountable for progress. * City governments can and should align open data releases to focus on pressing public policy issues for crowdsourced idea generation, but must continue to find ways to reintegrate open data into their own operations for enhanced efficiency. * Direct government engagement with the developer community is necessary to increase open data awareness and common strategies include face-to-face interactions, devoted innovation offices, or sponsored hackathons. * Civic organizations play a crucial role as middlemen to connect civic-minded developers with government officials, to incentivize commercial activity, and to advocate on behalf of openness. * Big business usages of municipal open data can unlock significant economic value and stimulate greater market activity among local developers by setting policy and technical standards. Ultimately, these recommendations for government should promote a sustainable open data ecosystem that promotes collaboration among key stakeholders like public officials, citizen developers, transparency advocates and business leaders. Nevertheless, the open data movement is still very young and new models for fostering its commercial market are still emerging.
Extent: 134 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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