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Data Dynamite: how liberating information will transform our world Paperback – June 15, 2011
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About the Author
W. David Stephenson has an international reputation as a Gov./Enterprise 2-3.0 strategist and theorist. He particularly focuses on organizational data transformation strategies and homeland security and disaster management. His “networked homeland security” strategy capitalizes on the combination of advanced mobile devices and social network apps to make the public full partners in preparation and response. Stephenson created app suites putting information necessary to prepare for and/or respond to disasters in easy-to-use form for smartphones. Stephenson is a frequent speaker on innovation at e-government, Web 2-3.0, and homeland security conferences worldwide. His expertise also includes organizational transformation through Web 2-3.0, corporate issue management, and new economic and environmental visions. His articles on data liberation, governmental transparency, homeland security, crisis management, new economic paradigms, and advanced technology have appeared in publications and online. Before entering the Web 2.0 field, Stephenson provided award-winning crisis management, community relations, and public relations services plus Web strategies in the environmental, energy & health care fields. He drafted and won passage of the Massachusetts law requiring labeling of plastic packaging to encourage its recycling. Stephenson began his career as an associate producer and writer of award-winning documentaries at WCVB-TV. He was speechwriter, assistant press secretary and press secretary to former Mass. Governor Michael Dukakis. He earned a B.A. from Haverford College and a M.A. from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, where he was a University Fellow.
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David Stephenson illuminates a path forward by "blowing up" our old ways of thinking about data, information, and knowledge and proposes that we re-think our data stores and re-deploy technology to liberate data in a way that makes it more accessible, transparent, and much, much more powerful to analyze. He shows new tools that can make our organizations able to make informed, data-driven decisions in a real-time way, instead of the long delays in getting access to the data through gatekeepers (like accounting), and getting the data long after it is useful, by structuring the data and giving it context via machine readable "tags", it can be accessed in a whole new way that allows us to tap the "wisdom of the crowd."
In addition to the structuring and democratizing of data, Stephenson talks about new data visualization tools that helps transform the data into critical knowledge that can be used to find new insights that were impossible to discern before.
Imagine if the US or State Governments could offer the public access to that level of data about the budget, costs and revenues? Or if the credit market were required to tag and make available data about those Collateralized Debt Obligations so you could "see" inside the traunches? Data Dynamite provides numerous examples of how this is being deployed now in Federal (SEC, FDIC) and state (Nevada, & Oregon), and numerous foreign governments (Netherlands, Australia). It is also being deployed in healthcare, private corporations, and regulators all across the globe. David makes the point well that we need new tools and new ways of working to deal with these "wicked" problems facing us at every level.
The technology is already here and available. XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) is one of these new tools. This standard is not new software but data standards that can be easily deployed to tag data using free and inexpensive software tools. The result is data that is essentially "bar-coded" so multiple systems can access it and users can easily import and analyze with the variety of tools available (like Excel). Using XBRL, you can cross multiple systems and databases and easily access your data quickly and without programming to allow efficiencies, real-time access, and make it widely available to your stakeholders. We recently tagged our data at the Maryland Association of CPAs as a "proof of concept" and were amazed at the benefits we are starting to realize and we did it with an accounting student intern! David calls this a dynamite combination - real-time data (structured at the lowest level possible) + group insights = better, data-driven decision-making across our whole economy.
I think this is one of the most important books for our current time, relevant to our public institutions to small businesses and non-profits. Leaders, managers, CFOs, and government officials should read it and then get started dynamiting our old practices. Set the data free! Thanks David!
The nub of the argument: "Liberating data makes it automatically available to those who need it, when and where they need it, in forms they can use, and with freedom to use as they choose, while simultaneously protecting security and privacy." He is spot on. This principles of this book need to be adopted by government and business everywhere. Citizens should read it and become advocates for its message in their communities and companies.
Even those who despise or fear data and numbers, who hated statistics in school, will find this an enjoyable and fast-moving book to read.