Open By Default

I hope that by now you’ve had the opportunity to follow the speakers who appeared at the Management of Change Conference. Aneesh Chopra, Rob Carey, Clay Shirky and Vivek Kundra were all very well received. Vivek Kundra provided his very compelling vision for a Federal government that is open by default. “Open by default” means that the beginning presumption for federal agencies is that their data should be published and publicly available, unless privacy or security considerations indicate otherwise.

Several days ago Vivek Kundra, our federal Chief Information Officer, spoke at Wired magazine’s Disruptive by Design Conference where he elaborated on that vision by describing the work of Federal Agencies on data.gov. Nancy Scola of Wired reports: “The premise behind behind Data.gov goes to the philosophy around transparency and open government that the president has been talking about. What we want to do is democratize data and democratize information and put it in the public square,” said Kundra. “The default setting of the United States should not be that everything should be secret and closed.”

An open default setting allows the American people to find innovative paths to society’s most compelling challenges. You might remember that in my first post here on Around the Corner I mentioned Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan. In the Black Swan, Taleb, a notable economic skeptic, identifies selection bias as a high risk to large-scale problems. The Skeptic’s Dictionary defines selection bias as the “self selection of individuals to participate in an activity or survey, or as a subject in an experimental study.” Of course, Federal IT investments are not experimental studies, but the open by default setting removes selection bias by allowing any and all American citizens to actively participate in mashing up their own data in ways that they determine. Organizations like the Sunlight Foundation play an instrumental role in democratizing data by sponsoring x-prizes or contests like the ongoing Apps For America 2.

This week the government is accelerating the publication of data. Data will be published in as many formats as possible, as close to raw as possible, and there is a preference for machine readable formats.

I hope you will have the opportunity to mashup your data. You can find it here. If you can’t find it yet, there’s more on the way.