Swivel: The Toast Of The OECD

I spoke at the bi-annual OECD conference in Istanbul last week. One of the big themes of the conference was what policies and products to use to fully leverage all of the official government economic, social and environmental data that flows into the organization. At the end of the conference the Istanbul Declaration was signed, calling for member countries to make their official governmental data available online as a public good.

Among various ideas under study, the OECD is thinking of creating an Internet site based on Web 2.0 “wiki” technologies for the presentation and discussion of international, national and local initiatives aimed at developing indicators of societal progress. By making indicators accessible to citizens all over the world through dynamic graphics and other analytical tools, this initiative would aim to stimulate discussion based on solid and comparable statistical information about what progress actually means.

Silicon Valley data visualization and modeling startup Swivel attended, as did other startups addressing these needs like IBM (see their Many Eyes data visualization product).

As a representative of the “new Internet,” I was definitely the black sheep of the conference. I was perhaps the only attendee not in a suit and tie (it was 100 degrees outside), and my Macbook Pro drew stares from this Windows-only mostly-government crowd. But they were genuinely interested in the evolution of the web and the open data approach to most new startups, and how to leverage that to get government data into the hands of economists and others as efficiently as possible.

Swivel has a huge head start in being the de-facto depository for official OECD data. The OECD is already an “offical source” on swivel via a deal done in the Spring, and hosts a lot of OECD data on its site already.

In addition to their official relationship with the OECD, Swivel does modeling in addition to the visualization tools offered by IBM and others gunning for the business (see our original post on Swivel during their beta). Freebase is another natural choice to deposit this kind of date. Whatever happens, the goal of distributing this kind of statistical data more broadly is a noble one. I hope it happens soon.

See Jesse Robbins’ coverage of the event as well over at O’Reilly Radar (he’s an advisor to Swivel and attended on their dime). My photos from the trip are here.