Civic Awesome: Open Data in the News for the Week of July 13, 2015

The US government puts open data to serious use this week, shining a spotlight on Big Pharma’s influence on medical care, and pushing to solve world hunger. Meanwhile, Virginians just want to have some open data fun — and profit. Plus: ODI issues a data challenge.

Drug Company Payouts: Transparency Wins

Thanks to the federal Open Payments portal, the public can now check up on relationships between drug companies and health care providers. As Diane Hoffman notes in NY City Today, the public can search on medical providers and see “a summary of payments received by them from drugmakers.” The portal, part of the Affordable Health Care Act, shows “drug and medical device companies paid doctors and leading hospitals nearly $6.5 billion last year,” states Hoffman. “Almost 80 percent of the total dollars went to doctors,” Hoffman reports, whose prescription choices “affected the fate of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.”

US Pledges Support for Open Agricultural Data

Worldwide, free, open access to agricultural data is a key step toward solving hunger, according to the work of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative. Countries need to “increase the supply, quality, and interoperability of data,” as well as the ability of people to use it, comments Dr. Catherine Woteki, Chief Data Scientist for the USDA (US Department of Agriculture). In the USDA blog, Woteki states the US pledged $4 million in support to GODAN, in recognition of “the boundless potential of data to revolutionize agriculture and food systems.”

New Open Data Standards for Construction

Nine local governments from multiple states committed to open data standards for building and construction permits, states Jason Shueh in Known as the Building and Land Development Specification 1.0. (BLDS), the standards will provide “insights into the housing market and propel civic app development,” says Shueh. Founder Mark Headd believes BLDS “could do for city building and construction what standardized transit data did for the transportation sector,” noting the huge success of the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) standard.

Virginia Champions Civic Tech

As Jonah Hahn reports in the Sunlight Foundation, the 2015 Virtual Datathon Challenge is Virginia’s latest step toward open government. Governor Terry McAuliffe wants the event “to encourage anyone to produce original, sophisticated applications for government agencies to implement,” Hahn states. The winners advance to the governor’s Datathon Cup in September, showcasing their work to government and investors. “By incentivizing its citizens to participate in transforming government data,” Hahn says, the state hopes to gain new technologies and an enthusiastic public.

Show Your Stuff: ODI’s Summer Showcase

The Open Data Institute (ODI) says it’s “looking for great examples of open data impact, to support their development and promote them to a global audience” — and it’s willing to pay for them. ODI invites submissions that “showcase tangible economic, social or environmental impacts,” with winners receiving up to £7,000 in funding. ODI wants to encourage anyone with a great idea to participate: “We welcome ideas both large and small, from any sector or region, and want to embrace diversity in applications.”