After raising $25 million in additional funding in October, civic technology specialist OpenGov — the startup co-founded by Palantir’s Joe Lonsdale that works with government organizations to collate, analyse and publicly present financial and other data — today announced its first acquisition. To expand the services and kinds of data on offer to current and future customers, the startup has acquired Ontodia, a developer of Open Data solutions based on CKAN. CKAN is an open-source data portal used by governments and other public organizations globally, used for sites like Data.gov.
Three services that will be added as a result of the deal are Managed Open Data using CKAN, publicly-available CivicDashboards (a massive data repository that includes U.S. Census data, maps, Department of Labor stats, and a whole lot more), and customized performance dashboards. This is significant because up to now, the basis of the bulk of data that OpenGov worked with came directly from the organizations themselves. This will help them contextualise and query that data much better.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed (but we have contacted OpenGov to see if we can find out). Ontodia has been around since 2011 and worked with a number of big-name clients, including the city of Newark, Darpa, Rutgers University, and divisions of the United Nations. It had raised a modest $350,000 from angels, according to CrunchBase.
OpenGov says that Ontodia co-founders Joel Natividad and Sami Baig, as well as the rest of the Ontodia team, will join OpenGov, working out of its NYC office.
Ontodia’s founders were some of the early contributors to CKAN, and the idea here will be to add their expertise to OpenGov. It will also create a new channel to make it easier for organizations already building data solutions on CKAN to become customers of OpenGov for a wider range of services.
“By adding a flexible, open source, Open Data platform and service to our quickly expanding portfolio of government financial solutions, we are getting one step closer to realizing our vision of transforming how governments analyze, share, compare, and allocate public money and to improve how the world’s most important industry serves us all,” said Zachary Bookman, CEO and co-founder of OpenGov, in a statement.
OpenGov was built around the idea that the rise of the Internet and a freer flow of data will inevitably lead to more accountability from public organizations in terms of how they share information and also what exactly they are doing with taxpayers’ money.
In a way, OpenData is addressing data issues for the some of the same kinds of customers that Palantir does, but from a different direction: it’s offering ways to harness and present data for those on the more public-facing side of these organizations. Today, OpenGov works with some 1,000 governments in 45 states, and Ontodia will help widen that funnel both in the U.S. as well as further afield.
“In the future, technology will play a huge role in tracking the trillions of dollars that flow through state and local governments, helping to better allocate resources and share best practices,” said Lonsdale, chairman and co-founder of OpenGov, in a statement. “Open-source platforms have an important role to play in furthering a transparent ecosystem that supports government decision making, and I’m excited about how Ontodia will allow us to extend OpenGov’s impact.”
More on the three services that are getting added as a part of the deal:
Managed Open Data using CKAN. OpenGov says that customers will be able to use both on-premise and cloud-hosted Open Data libraries to augment their own data sets. “This service will help governments gain greater insights into their financial performance and enable them to develop additional mission-critical applications that power their operations and improve civic engagement,” it notes.
Publicly-Available CivicDashboards. This is a gem of an addition. Currently OpenGov’s existing databases are based around multi-fund government financial data, and now that will be complemented by CivicDashboards, which OpenGov describes as “the world’s largest publicly-available repository.” It includes location-specific data and preloaded maps from the U.S. Census, FBI, USPTO, SOCDS Building Permits, U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development, Dept of Education, Dept of Labor, Dept of Transportation, Dept of Labor Statistics, and Dept of Commerce, covering over 3,000 counties and 35,000 townships and municipalities in the United States.
Customizable Performance Dashboards. This is another development on the CivicDashboards, in which customers will be able to create their own visualizations based around the data for their own work.
This was a large part of the business that Ontodia had already built, according to Nativided: “We started Ontodia four and a half years ago with a grand ambition for linking Open Data to drive better transparency and results for governments across the globe,” he said in a statement. “This path led us to develop numerous innovative solutions, including NYCDataWeb, NYCFacets, NYCpedia, Hosted CKAN, and CivicDashboards. Now that we’re part of the OpenGov family, we will be on the front lines of enabling the 21st century connected governments we expect and deserve.”
Update: OpenGov CMO Jeff Schultz confirmed that no financial details are being shared (ironic, given OpenGov’s mandate on financial transparency!), and he also tells us that this will not be replacing any exisiting OpenGov services.