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Guest Blog from Buildingeye | Referendum for a Dream: Why Data Standardization Is the Next Evolution for U.S. Cities

The private sector has always led the race in technological advancement, usually leaving government agencies and city municipalities decades in the past. However, one of the few places where government entities have been pressed forward in this area is for defense applications.

Yet collaborative technology partnerships continue to move forward—and even in the past few years, we’ve seen how companies like Accela and governments have been working together in mitigating disasters. Appallicious has a disaster assessment dashboard to help citizens in disaster situations and are working directly with FEMA. DigitalGlobe was recently able to help the U.S. military move their assets in place during the massive flooding in Colorado and even the California wildfires this past year.Through such a powerful partnership, the U.S. military was able to save countless lives, and these scenarios also taught a very important lesson: the data needs to flow, because populations depend on it.

How Can Open Data Standardization Move Us Forward?

While major U.S. defense agencies and departments have been able to keep up with the private sector, local city municipalities have been sluggish in their ability to provide easily accessible data to their citizens at large. One of the most prevalent reasons why this is the case is because the data itself is isolated, inconsistent, and local governing bodies are either unable or unwilling to operate on a single data standard.

Essentially, the data is inconsistent and decentralized, meaning that it’s problematic for a private citizen or investor to obtain necessary information about the community or their respective government. In simpler terms, most cities do have their own information, how they store it, and how they communicate it—but in a way, it’s like each city speaks its own ‘data language.’ If the data were standardized, then city information can be easily centralized online, and the average person would be able to access it from any Internet connection. If this were the case, then it would become far easier for citizens to seek out government services, and in turn, governments would have a much greater capacity for serving their taxpayers.

Economic Hardship Is a Crisis That Data Standardization Can Tackle

The referendum for the standardization of open data is largely based on a desire for transparency in government, as it will provide the average person with the ability to conveniently access government information, which has been exceedingly difficult for them acquire in the past. The more information that is placed in the hands of the citizenry, then the better they are equipped to make educated, democratic decisions about their local governments.

However, there is also another benefit, which will have a very noticeable impact on the entire nation: economic development. For instance, healthcare is one area that will reap massive benefits from the open data initiative for both the medical industry and patients alike, according to BeyondTransparency.org:

“For example, in U.S. healthcare, we found that more than $300 billion a year in value potentially could be created through the use of more open data, e.g., through the analysis of open data to determine which therapies are both medically effective and cost-efficient.”

Buildingeye has been in the process of working closely with larger city municipalities to implement data standardization. Their web app pins permit noticing information on a publicly accessible map, providing the local population with knowledge about what building projects are about to launch in their area. This will not only increase transparency within the local community, but it will also attract the attention of investors. With the simple accessibility of such useful data, it will draw in business, thereby growing the local economy, create jobs and increase the tax base.

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City Municipalities Are Already Moving Forward

The evolution has already begun. On August 25th, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that his city was joining the global initiative on open data. Boston is now the first U.S. city to become a Foundation Partner in the World Council on City Data, according to CityofBoston.gov.

“We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this influential partnership that is helping to shape how cities across the globe use and share data,” Mayor Walsh said. “We rely on good data to inform a lot of what we do in city government, and the chance to share best practices with such a diverse group of international cities is very exciting.” This is only the beginning for the open standardization of data in the U.S. The general public already possesses the means by which to connect with their local governments through private sector technology, which means that the stage for the change has been set.

At this point, city municipalities will be faced with a choice—not concerning if they should join the open data initiative and standardization referendum, but concerning when. This movement will cause cities that shifted towards open data to become more economically attractive and competitive than the ones that hesitated.

If cities wish to hold their competitive edge, then moving towards data standardization would be an act of staying in front of the trend: a trend which has already hit the ground running.

Reprinted with permission of the author. This blog post originally appeared here.

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