Democratizing Our Data

Democratizing Our Data

A Manifesto

By Julia Lane

A wake-up call for America to create a new framework for democratizing data.





A wake-up call for America to create a new framework for democratizing data.

Public data are foundational to our democratic system. People need consistently high-quality information from trustworthy sources. In the new economy, wealth is generated by access to data; government's job is to democratize the data playing field. Yet data produced by the American government are getting worse and costing more. In Democratizing Our Data, Julia Lane argues that good data are essential for democracy. Her book is a wake-up call to America to fix its broken public data system.

Lane argues that we must rethink ways to democratize data; there are successful models to follow and new legislation that can help effect change. The private sector's data revolution—which creates new types of data and new measurements to build machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms—can be mirrored by a public sector data revolution characterized by attention to counting all who should be counted, measuring what should be measured, and protecting privacy and confidentiality. Just as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook have led the world in the use of data for profit, the United States can show the world how to produce data for the public good.  

Lane calls for a more automated, transparent, and accountable framework for creating high-quality public data that would empower citizens and inspire the government that serves them. And she outlines an organizational model that has the potential to make data more accessible and useful. As she says, failure to act threatens our democracy.


$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262044325 192 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in


$16.95 T ISBN: 9780262542746 192 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in


  • Lane, a professor of public policy at NYU, delivers a persuasive, evidence-based argument for building a new public data system in order to safeguard privacy and improve the government's ability to implement policy initiatives...she writes in straightforward, accessible prose and makes a convincing case for reform. Policymakers will want to take note.

    Publishers Weekly

  • "A high-level blueprint for building a new public data infrastructure."

    David Warsh

    Economic Principals

  • This pithy volume is a must-read account of what the US federal statistical agencies are, what they do and why public statistics are vital to democracy. If we cannot be counted, we cannot be heard.



  • Julia Lane is a brilliant visionary with the rare ability to bring her visions successfully to fruition. Her manifesto is a clarion call we must heed to ensure a dynamic and viable future for timely, relevant, accurate, and objective federal statistical data. A must-read.

    Nancy Potok

    former Chief Statistician of the United States

  • Julia Lane paints a grim picture of the current state of government data collection. But she also describes practical ways to modernize and improve the systems that provide this data. Everyone interested in improved policy making should read this book.

    Hal Varian

    Chief Economist, Google

  • A compelling call to modernize the way we collect and analyze public data, so that citizens, firms, and policy makers make better decisions in the twenty-first century.

    Tom Kalil

    Chief Innovation Officer, Schmidt Futures; former Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

  • A must-read. A marvelous (and badly needed) recipe to harness the power of public data to enlighten us all.

    David T. Ellwood

    Isabelle and Scott Black Professor of Political Economy, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

  • “A persuasive case and actionable vision for refashioning government data collection and analysis to more efficiently and effectively serve public needs.”

    John Overdeck

    President, Overdeck Family Foundation