Open-data advocates estimate a multibillion-dollar industry could result from taking raw government data files and turning them into products for the public to consume or other industries to pay for.
At least 39 U.S. states and 46 cities and counties have created open-data sites since 2009, according to Data.gov.
Meanwhile, state and local governments also are sponsoring "hackathons" and other challenges that call on anyone with data management skills to develop ways to take advantage of the newly available data. The events' objectives vary, with some soliciting ideas for how government can present its data more effectively, while others seek concepts for mining it.
New sites are being produced and new data is being posted almost daily, says Data.gov evangelist Jeanne Holm.
Historically, states have lagged behind the federal government and cities in terms of sharing data, notes the Sunlight Foundation's Emily Shaw. States also have been slower to use data in commercial endeavors, says New York University adviser Joel Gurin, who leads Open Data 500, which identifies firms that that have made products from open government data and converted them into regional or national enterprises. "We're finding more and more companies every day," Gurin says.
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