Open Data Nation: ‘We use open data to find wasteful spending on public services’

With the 2016 Open Data Awards just around the corner, we speak with the team at Open Data Nation, one of the finalists for the Business Award.

The Open Data Awards celebrate innovation and excellence in open data across the world. Hundreds of inspiring people and organisations have been nominated. The awards will be held on 1 November 2016 at the BFI Southbank. Explore all nominees and finalists and follow #OpenDataAwards for updates on the night.


Open Data Nation


What do you do, in a nutshell?

Open Data Nation works with cities and counties to transform open data into actionable intelligence that makes public services more effective and efficient. ‘Food Inspection Violations, Anticipating Risk’ (, for example, generates cost savings and keeps the public safer from foodborne illness outbreaks by prioritising restaurant inspections according to risk of a violation.

We believe we’re bringing about the next great innovation in the open data movement and there is a lot to be excited about.

Just this month we shared our vision to over 3,000 people as a keynote speaker at the Open Innovation Summit at the White House and Open Data International Conference. In the last few months, Open Data Nation was featured in GovTech and our FIVAR solution was promoted in The Atlantic.

From GovTech: “ODN’s work echoes the economic value and cross-jurisdiction replication activity that many have wanted to see in a growing civic innovation ecosystem. Projects like FIVAR also illustrate the mutually beneficial, give-and-take processes that startups have been generating with cities.”

What first got you excited about open data?

We set out to use open data to find wasteful, inefficient spending on public services, like health inspections, traffic safety, homelessness reduction and fire prevention. What we found were a few US cities with innovative open data science-driven approaches and many more cities with similar data and the same problems. Within our work, we prove time and again that it is possible to scale best practices and this keeps us motivated to continue growing, reaching more communities, and expanding our impact.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Early on, we learned that the potential market size of our first product, FIVAR, was at least 1,500 US county and city governments. However, when it came to selling, only early adopters of data-driven decision-making were interested in disruptive civic technologies, even when it meant they could save money and deliver services more effectively. To reach more places and scale our social impact quickly, we’ve learned to build partnerships with incumbent companies and align private-sector interests, when possible.

What kind of open data would you like to see more of?

We’re working to build public-private partnerships that result in the opening up (or free licensing) of private-sector data for the public benefit. For example, we are working to align restaurants, insurance companies, and departments of health, bringing together their data to optimise our predictions of health-code violations and mitigate risk of exposure and death from a foodborne illness outbreak.

What are you most looking forward to about the ODI Summit and Awards?

We are always humbled to be in the presence of progressive thinkers in the open data movement. Namely, those who acknowledge what has been accomplished, but also are probing with flashlights into the unknown future of the movement. We are privileged to be a part of this community and working together to create new value and better lives for people, using open data.

The awards will be held on 1 November 2016 at the BFI Southbank. Explore all nominees and finalists and follow #OpenDataAwards for updates on the night.