Posted by Parul Bhandari
Government Industry Solutions Lead, Worldwide Public Sector

Without a doubt, there is growing demand among citizens for access to public data. This burgeoning global movement, commonly referred to as Open Data, is forever changing the way government agencies deliver information, and the way citizens shape the policy decisions that impact their daily lives.

When you think about it, Open Data is really an extension of the information revolution unfolding in front of our eyes every day. As consumers, we’re accustomed to instant access to practically every kind of information. We can read reviews of the latest blockbuster movie, connect with friends online, and even stay plugged into email and other work applications—all from our phone. Yet, for many of us, it can be frustratingly difficult to find even the most basic information on the Web about government services, let alone how public budgets are allocated, or whether school test scores are improving or declining in our neighborhood.

Open Data is On the Rise

Fortunately, this situation is changing. Governments around the world are paying close attention to the incredible momentum that the Open Data movement has gathered. Agencies at every level of government, with strong support from prominent non-governmental and non-profit organizations are taking steps to launch transparency initiatives aimed at improving access to public data and increasing opportunities for citizen participation in decision making.

On May 9, 2013, President Barack Obama signed an executive order directing several federal agencies to make government-held data more accessible as a means of promoting civic engagement, innovation, and economic opportunity. Similarly, government leaders in more than 50 countries continue to follow through on commitments to making transparency a reality through their involvement in the Open Government Partnership initiative.

Innovative Technology Supports Greater Data Transparency

Even in light of high-profile examples of Open Data at work around the globe, it is worth acknowledging the challenges that civic leaders face in making transparency happen. These challenges include aggregating data across disparate systems; delivering consumer-like experiences on the Web, despite shrinking budgets and other pressing priorities; and simplifying data re-use and sharing—while maintaining appropriate information security standards.

The good news is that innovations in technology, including cloud computing, self-service data analysis, and social media platforms are making it easier to get information to constituents.

As part of our long-standing commitment to helping governments streamline processes and provide improved citizen service, Microsoft has formed a partnership with Socrata, one of the world’s foremost providers of Open Data solutions. The Socrata Open Data Platform running on Windows Azure provides government organizations with a comprehensive set of capabilities for launching their transparency initiatives. This solution combines best-in-class data portal, API creation, and performance management functionality with the global scale and reliability of Windows Azure.

With the release of this powerful solution, government agencies can get data access initiatives off the ground faster—while taking advantage of existing investments in Microsoft technologies. Now, public-sector organizations of any size have a clear, reliable path to meeting the Open Data mandate and turning transparency into a reality.

To learn more, please see the Socrata on Windows Azure site.