Open Data Day in Asheville NC on October 16th

Open Data Day is coming to Asheville North Carolina. If you are interested in great informational systems and Open Government, this is for you. Here is the press release:

Last year, the City of Asheville organized a technology day that we called “Cloud Day”, which was a day devoted to a dialog about how cloud computing — a new kind of computing that gives a lot of flexibility to organizations — was a critical bus for local government to get aboard.   It was an event that we thought maybe 20 folks in the community would come to.  We had offers from out of town folks to come and present, and we dissuaded them from coming since we expected a fairly small turnout.  Well, we had about triple the turnout we expected, and the feedback was positive.

We asked attendees what they would like to see in the future, and while many wanted to see more cloud computing topics, the majority of them also wanted to see us do a technology day about open data or open government.  A year later, we think that there’s a lot less confusion about cloud computing, but questions about open data and open government remain.

In response to last year’s feedback, we reached out to the community and did a meetup of interested people to see what kind of interest there was in an open data day this year.  It turned out that there was lots of interest, from the entrepreneurship community to the technology community, and of course, from government and academia.  We decided to go ahead and help to launch a regional community event dedicated to open data.  We’re really excited about it!

Why are we excited?  There are real pain points that exists regarding the easy availability of government data.  It’s vital to an open and transparent government, but there are lots of challenges in doing it right. Funding is one: when elected boards are choosing between “new patrol car,” “repair the bridge” or data systems that aren’t critical for daily operations, the non-critical item rarely gets funded.  This isn’t a surprise – there are many unfunded needs in any community.

The challenges to open data include funding and technology, but they also include policy, privacy, and legislative challenges. The impact of the challenges?  Newspapers, radio, bloggers all wait longer than they want to or need to when they request information, government staff sometimes spends a lot of time sifting through records, and entrepreneurs don’t have access to a wealth of data that they could be using to build value — and jobs! — in their communities.

Jobs?  Really?  Yes.  The Gartner Group, a well-regarded IT think-tank, did a recent writeup about how open data can build business value. Cloud Times cited Gartner’s research recently:

“Big data is a topic of growing interest for many business and IT leaders, and there is little doubt that it creates business value by enabling organizations to uncover previously unseen patterns and develop sharper insights about their businesses and environments,” said David Newman, research vice president at Gartner. “However, for clients seeking competitive advantage through direct interactions with customers, partners and suppliers, open data is the solution. For example, more government agencies are now opening their data to the public Web to improve transparency, and more commercial organizations are using open data to get closer to customers, share costs with partners and generate revenue by monetizing information assets.”

And so, there are pain points for business, media, AND government.  And when there is a problem that affects multiple groups of folks, getting together to plan and act is always a good idea.  When you do, generally, people start to have good ideas, and create relationships that they need to execute on those ideas.  That’s where Open Data Day comes in.

Open Data Day will feature national keynote speakers from Code for America and Open Data Philly.  But it will be more than just keynotes.  It will feature workshops that dig in and start to highlight the mutual problems — and even start to identify some solutions.  We are even optimistic that some interesting demos will be created during the event, similar to the way that last month’s Startup Weekend created product demos during the event.  Although you might think that Asheville, NC would be an unusual place to have this kind of event, we think that the level of civic engagement is higher in Asheville than most places in the US — so we think it’s a perfect venue.  And, we’re having it during the height of Asheville’s mountain beauty in the middle of October, which is certainly a draw for the folks coming in from out of town.
We will be finalizing the agenda.

Open Data Day is scheduled for October 16, 2012 in the US Cellular Center in Asheville, NC.  We will be announcing more details as we draw nearer to the date.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @opendataday to keep up with the latest developments!

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