April 12, 2011

How Information Can Fuel Jobs

FOR THE past few years, proponents of "government 2.0" have been trying to liberate public data. Their argument goes like this: Our governments collect tons of information about everyday life-crime, health, economics, weather. That data is paid for with taxes and belongs to the public, so release it openly and altruistic geeks can build apps that improve civic life.

But it's slow going. Bureaucrats still snooze atop mountains of public data, with no political imperative to release it. It's not something senators and congresspeople fret about while nursing martinis with lobbyists. "It's not the primary mission of any agency," notes Tom Lee, a director at the Sunlight Foundation, one of the foremost open-government groups.

So how do we get the attention of the political class? With one word: jobs.

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