The Information Revolution

January 20, 2012
By Jenny Li Fowler

In today’s economy data is power. “Open data leveraged by networks is the fuel that powers important decisions at each level of society,” writes Vivek Kundra, “from government to business to community to households.”

In a new Shorenstein Center discussion paper titled “Digital Fuel of the 21st Century: Innovation through Open Data and the Network Effect,” Kundra makes four specific recommendations to ensure our society continues to build on and benefit from the power of open data and the so-called "network effect" which, according to Kundra, possesses great potential to drive massive social, political and economic change.

Kundra argues that:

  1. Citizens and NGOs must demand open data in order to fight government corruption, improve accountability and government services.

  2. Governments must enact legislation to change the default setting of government to be open, transparent and participatory.

  3. The press must harness the power of the network effect through strategic partnerships and crowdsourcing to cut costs and provide better insights.

  4. Venture capitalists should invest in startups focused on building companies based on public sector data

Kundra, who served as Chief Information Officer for the Obama Administration (2008-11) and as a Shorenstein Center Fellow in the Fall of 2011, concludes that information and data combined with networks and startups will unleash powerful new forces for the greater good of society.

“Across time, the world has experienced many revolutions, and the information revolution fueled by open data and the network effect represents the largest shift in power. Similar to other revolutions, we will witness new industries emerge, others will be transformed and many will perish. We are still at the nascent stages of harnessing information and leveraging the network effect," he writes.

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Vivek Kundra headshot

Vivek Kundra, Chief Information Officer for the Obama Administration (2008-11) and Shorenstein Center Fellow, Fall 2011

“Across time, the world has experienced many revolutions, and the information revolution fueled by open data and the network effect represents the largest shift in power," writes Kundra.