The Open Data Policy Lab supports decision-makers at the local, state and national levels as they accelerate the responsible re-use and opening of data for the benefit of society and the equitable spread of economic opportunity.

What we do

The Open Data Policy Lab works to accelerate the responsible re-use of data by lowering existing barriers and building a center of expertise that will be available to all stakeholders involved in democratizing access to data. The Open Data Policy Lab will achieve these goals through four areas of work.

Using comparative research and analysis, the Lab will identify best practices in the field of open data and inform the development of responsible data initiatives that contribute to economic development and societal resilience.

The Lab will develop and curate guidelines, toolkits, frameworks, best practices, and other materials to support more effective data sharing and data-driven decision-making.

The Lab will foster a community of data stewards, chief data officers, and other decision-makers within the public and private sectors to share knowledge, undertake collaborative work, and spur responsible data sharing.

Using the framework of The 100 Questions Initiative, the Lab will help convene governments and other stakeholders to identify key questions that can be answered by opening up data and implement proof-of-concept initiatives that demonstrate how to harness the power of open data to solve key societal challenges.


Governments play a critical role in providing data that is vital to addressing today’s most pressing problems and improving people’s lives. It is essential that governments at all levels work collaboratively to share data across the public and private sectors in a responsible manner.

Similarly, governments at all levels can benefit from functional access to private-sector data to address important public policy challenges. It is essential to create an ecology in which governments can engage with industry to identify data that may be useful in addressing important public policy issues.

Our work seeks to address a variety of barriers currently standing in the way of streamlining access to data across a continuum of openness, including the absence of an enabling and scalable policy and legislative agenda, a lack of internal capacity, and limited access to external expertise and resources.

The pandemic highlights the urgent importance of having access to data at the state and local level to design evidence-based responses to current and future crises. There is an urgent need for an Open Data Policy Lab to help make more locally collected data available and, at the same time, enable more communities at the state and local level to use data.

Beth Simone Noveck
Co-Founder and Executive Director, The GovLab; Former United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer

Open data allows individuals outside of government to identify new opportunities, tailor information, and diagnose issues in ways that supplement government's abilities and capacity.

Adam Neufeld
Vice President of Innovation & Strategy, Anti-Defamation League

“Microsoft is delighted to support the launch of the Open Data Policy Lab. Now more than ever, governments and industry need to work together to make data more accessible for the public good.”

Jennifer Yokoyama
Chief IP Counsel, Microsoft

“Open data is a powerful ingredient for building great services at the regional level. It democratizes access to important information that can spur innovation, support economic growth, strengthen government accountability, and help address the needs of our diverse communities.”

Jaimie Boyd
Chief Digital Officer, Government of British Columbia

Investing in open data initiatives means committing to transparency, collaboration, community empowerment, and evidence-driven solutions. The Open Data Policy Lab's facilitation of cross-sector data sharing is a much needed resource in the advancement of these commitments.

Adrienne Schmoeker
Deputy Chief Analytics Officer for the City of New York, Director of Civic Engagement & Strategy for the NYC Mayor's Office of Data Analytics

“The Opening up of government data can be a powerful vector of improved public governance, and local administrations as key actors of the ecosystem have an essential role to play in enabling the access, sharing and reuse of open data towards value creation.”

Barbara-Chiara Ubaldi
Head of Digital Government, Open Data and Data-driven Public Sector Team, Organisation for Economic Coordination and Development (OECD)

“Building communities around data to solve targeted policy goals, while mitigating risks, is more effective than doing so in isolation. I am thrilled to join the Open Data Policy Lab at a time when then it has never been more important to democratise access to data in safe and reliable ways to effectively respond to the complex and evolving societal challenges we face.”

Ania Calderon
Chief Executive Officer, Open Data Charter


Summer of Open Data: Accelerating Data Collaboration

Freedom of information laws adopted over the last half century have brought about a new kind of transparency, one in which national government data could be supplied on request to an audience (largely) composed of journalists, lawyers, and activists. This first wave of open data was followed by a second at the advent of the open source and web 2.0 era, one that called upon governments to make their data open by default for civic technologists, government agencies, and corporations. While this work enabled new, innovative projects, it left many data silos and asymmetries untouched. Data held by local governments and the private sector remains often hard to access and re-use. Open data has created significant global impact to date, but much more work still needs to be done.


Selected Readings on Open Data Legislation and Policy

Amid increasingly pressing demands for information pertaining to public health, government response, and administrative decision-making processes during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for comprehensive and collaborative open data initiatives becomes ever apparent. In March, The GovLab released a Call for Action outlining needs and opportunities for creating a data infrastructure and ecosystem for responding to the pandemic and other emerging threats. In the subsequent months, we have collected dozens of examples of public and private actors establishing data collaboratives, leveraging open and other data sources, to support public health and safety in a Living Repository of Data4COVID19.


From Idea to Reality: Why We Need an Open Data Policy Lab

The belief that we are living in a data age—one characterized by unprecedented amounts of data, with unprecedented potential—has become mainstream. We regularly read phrases such as “data is the most valuable commodity in the global economy” or that data provides decision-makers with an “ever-swelling flood of information.”

Without doubt, there is truth in such statements. But they also leave out a major shortcoming—the fact that much of the most useful data continues to remain inaccessible, hidden in silos, behind digital walls, and in untapped “treasuries.”


Open Data Index: 10 Insights on the Value of Open Data

What’s the value of Open Data? For the last few years The GovLab has curated and identified hundreds of studies on the use and value of opening up data while conducting numerous detailed case studies seeking to understand what makes open data impactful.

For the launch of the Open Data Policy Lab we went through these studies again and selected 10 insights and related stats on the wide-ranging value of open data—with a particular focus on open government data.


Supported by



Open data comprises data made accessible for re-use along a spectrum of openness and conditions for re-use. It includes data collected by or on behalf of government institutions of all levels, and which has been reviewed as appropriate for public distribution and use by individuals and organizations of all types. Private-sector organizations, civil society organizations, scientific research institutions, and other parties also hold data that could benefit the public if made accessible to certain parties for re-use — though with additional constraints and challenges to be navigated. The Open Data Policy Lab focuses on how to responsibly provide functional access to various high-level datasets held by parties across sectors.

The opening of data for re-use is becoming an essential building block for the development of new economic opportunities, innovative solutions, and cutting edge technologies developed to address some of our most critical societal challenges – including social, health, environmental, and economic issues. The GovLab’s Open Data’s Impact and websites contain dozens of examples of impactful (re)uses of data to improve governance, empower people, create economic opportunity, and solve public problems.

The Open Data Policy Lab will use its methodologies and community networks to help government agencies at all levels and other data holders identify best practices to improve the availability, re-use and utility of government data – from identifying the components of effective model legislation or data sharing agreements, to analyzing how governments can best approach the challenge of identifying and releasing high value data sets that are needed to help address critical societal challenges.

Data responsibility is an essential component of any open data initiative and a core concern for any open data policy. The Open Data Policy Lab will center the question of how to ensure responsibility across the open data lifecycle — including but not limited to the issues of personal privacy and information security.

We are eager to build an Open Data Policy Lab community with individual and organizational members spanning regions and sectors — get in touch with the project team.

Summer of Open Data | Accelerating Data Collaboration