How the Dept. of Commerce is Unleashing Open Data

0 Comments23 July 2014

Secy Pritzker with Open Data Compass

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker at the Esri conference (with Open Data 500 slide)

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 This blog post originally appeared on the GovLab’s blog at

A few weeks ago, the White House and the GovLab co-hosted an Open Data Roundtable with the Department of Commerce, the first in a series of planned Roundtables that build on the Open Data 500 study I direct at the GovLab. The Department of Commerce, which provides data to more companies in the Open Data 500 than any other federal agency, has been a leader in releasing open data for public and business use. The Roundtable brought together officials and staff of the Department with companies and organizations that use their data for a unique, action-oriented dialogue.

Last week, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced new commitments that echoed the discussions at the Roundtable, and that will make the Department’s data an even better resource for the wide range of businesses and organizations that use it. The new commitments include:

  • Hiring the Department’s first Chief Data Officer, who will be “responsible for developing and implementing a vision for the future of the diverse data resources at Commerce.  The new Chief Data Officer will pull together a platform for all data sets; instigate and oversee improvements in data collection and dissemination; and ensure that data programs are coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic.”
  • Establishing a data advisory council “comprised of 15 private sector leaders that will advise the Department on the best use of government data. This new advisory council will help Commerce maximize the value of its data by: discovering how to deliver data in more usable, timely, and accessible ways; improving how data is utilized and shared to make businesses and governments more responsive, cost-effective, and efficient; better anticipating customers’ needs; and collaborating with the private sector to develop new data products and services.”
  • Establishing a Trade Developer Portal through the International Trade Administration to make it easier for the business community to tap into overseas markets.

At the GovLab, we’re honored that the Secretary cited our Open Data 500 study when she announced these initiatives at the user conference for Esri, the geospatial data company, in San Diego, California. The Open Data Roundtable we convened, together with the White House and the Department of Commerce, helped support these new decisions.

Secretary Penny Pritzker: Input from the Open Data Roundtable was invaluable.

“As America’s data agency, the Department of Commerce was pleased to partner with the GovLab on the first Open Data Roundtable, held on June 18, 2014,” Secretary Pritzker said in a later statement. “The input we received from companies was invaluable and confirmed the need to make key changes in how we manage our data to maximize its value. On July 14, I announced that the Department will now hire a Chief Data Officer and establish a Data Advisory Council of business leaders – both changes that will help address the issues raised at the Roundtable. We look forward to continued work with the GovLab and the companies and organizations they have brought to the table.”

We are now synthesizing the ideas and recommendations that came out of the Open Data Roundtable, and will soon report on the results and plans from the Department of Commerce and the private sector. We hope that our work can help unlock the tremendous value, not only of Commerce’s data, but of all government open data. The same day that Secretary Pritzker made her announcements, the Department of Commerce released a study called “Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data.” As Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms wrote in a blog post, “The lower-bound estimate suggests government statistics help private firms generate revenues of at least $24 billion annually – more than six times what we spend for the data. The upper-bound estimate suggests annual revenues of $221 billion!” Through the Open Data 500, the Open Data Roundtables, and other work at the GovLab, we hope to help realize the promise of this public resource.

Joel Gurin, Founder and Editor,

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