Ed note. The UN Dispatch team is covering a host of conferences in New York City this week,  including the Social Good Summit which kicked off today.  If you are in New York, come by to the 92Y and say ‘hi.’  If you are anywhere else in the world, you can follow the conversation on Twitter (hashtag #SGSGlobal) or via the live feed, now available in 7 languages! –Mark 

Social Good Summit, New York City — Pete Hudson, an emergency room physician in Denver, Colo., was getting tired of seeing people coming into the ER with serious medical conditions that could have been avoided with preventative care. But instead of stewing about the problem, he harnessed data recently made public by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and created a mobile app. iTriage allows people to enter their symptoms and location and tells them where to go to get the best care for their condition.

Hudson’s story is just one example of the power of open data innovation, the subject of a talk by U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park at this weekend’s Social Good Summit in New York City.

“I can’t feed my baby daughter data,” Park said during his (very entertaining and engaging) speech. “Data by itself is useless.”

Park works with entrepreneurs and innovators to “jiu-jitsu” data, taking all of those rows and numbers and turning them into useful services and features.

Park is only the second chief technology officer (he was preceded by Aneesh Chopra), but using publicly available data for social good is nothing new. Publicly available National Weather Service data has served as the basis for apps, websites, news services and direct transmission to the public since it first became available several decades ago.

Up next, Park’s department is challenging the public to create an app for the U.S.-led Equal Futures Partnership, which strives to increase women’s political and economic participation. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will launch the initiative at the U.N. on Monday.

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