One of the most important things government leaders can do is to take a short trip outside the headquarters building to see how customers are using your products. This is especially important for the open data economy, where public information products are one of the few popular online services that don’t require a log-in. That means that it is often difficult, but not impossible, to know exactly how open government data is fueling businesses growth.
In this spirit, over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with business leaders to hear how they are using data to improve their operations and to learn from them how Commerce data can improve to support business activities. These briefings were arranged by Business Forward, an organization dedicated to improving collaborations between the business community and the government.
The first of these sessions began in Boulder, Colorado on Oct 30. The session was hosted by Boomtown Accelerator, a local incubator that helps entrepreneurs develop and launch new start-up companies. In the audience were a number of new start-ups as well as executives from local small and medium sized businesses. The industries represented ranged widely – from real estate and cybersecurity to healthcare and environmental organizations.
What was clear from the conversation is that no matter the type of business, nearly everyone relies on data produced by the Commerce data – from weather and trade data to demographic and business development data. In fact, most attendees wanted to learn more about how to find and access more data from the Department.
The questions are well timed. Under the leadership of Secretary Penny Pritzker, all the Bureaus within the Department are working to responsibly publish more of their data inventory. This work is also a core service of the newly formed Commerce Data Service. We know that opening more data is a civic responsibility.
I then traveled to sunny San Deigo, California on Nov. 12 for the second BusinessForward session. The meeting was hosted by Qualcomm, one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies and in the audience were representatives from a number of large organizations ranging from clean technology and life sciences firms to the United States Navy.
While the make of the audience differed dramatically from the Boulder meeting, the focus remained similar – how can we improve our collaboration with government to improve our business operations. In this case, intellectual property (IP) was a particular focus. Many major organizations develop patents that drive innovation across the country. Protecting the IP found in those patents is critical to a business’ success. And that’s why the Commerce Data Service is supporting the US Patent and Trademark office in its goal to modernize its open data and mobile operations.
Engaging directly with the people who benefit from our data is vital to our success. These Business Roundtable briefings in Boulder and San Deigo raised topics that go to the heart of the mission of the Department of Commerce and will help improve our ability to serve our customers by making data more accessible and maximizing its value to the American public. I look forward to further briefings with other stakeholders. For the latest information on how to participate in a briefing, check out commerce.gov/dataservice and follow us on twitter @CommerceGovData.