The Open Data Opportunity: How Government Information Can Change the Way California Does Business

November 4, 2015

3:30pm - 5:00pm

Santa Monica


Moderated by Ben Welsh, Editor, LA Times Data Desk
Alex Padilla, Secretary of State, California
Ted Ross, General Manager, City of Los Angeles Information Technology Agency
Alicia Rouault, Senior Advisor to the Executive Director, Code for America
Deep Varma, Vice President, Data Engineering, Trulia



For as long as there have been governments, there has been government data. From census information to climate statistics, governments all over the world have been collecting data from all corners to help them perform all manner of administrative duties. Simply put, data is information. Through surveys, monitoring, and statistical analysis, governments gather relevant information from innumerable sources and use this data to decide how to govern.

With the passage of two key bills in the last legislative session, California policymakers are beginning to recognize the benefits open data – previously unpublished government-collected information – can have on both government effectiveness and private-sector job creation in the state.

The Milken Institute and the LA Times hosted this forum on Wednesday, November 4 to explore the possibilities of open data with some of the California’s most forward-thinking officials and business leaders.

How can open data be used to enhance the way Californians interact with their government? What is the next game-changing business model that can only be made possible through opening access to government data? How can city, county, and state officials prepare for new laws that require the publication of massive quantities of data?

Moderated by 


Ben Welsh, Data Editor, Los Angeles Times. With the Times since 2007, Welsh leads the Data Desk, a team of reporters and programmers in the newsroom that partner with other journalists to collect, analyze and present large amounts of information. Welsh is also a co-founder of the California Civic Data Coalition, a network of developers dedicated to opening up public data, and the creator of, an open-source effort dedicated to better archiving digital news.



Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State. Sworn in on January 5, 2015, Padilla is committed to modernizing the office, increasing voter registration and participation, and strengthening voting rights. He previously served in the California State Senate (2006-2014), where he chaired the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications. As chair, he shepherded legislation to combat climate change and create a greener and more sustainable economy. Padilla pursued an ambitious agenda in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grid, and broadband deployment.


Ted Ross, General Manager, City of Los Angeles Information Technology Agency (ITA). Ross's department delivers enterprise IT services to over 40 City departments and consists of 458 dedicated employees with an $82 Million annual operating budget. His staff support more than 100 City applications, a 24/7 Data Center, City Data & Voice Communications, the 3-1-1 Call Center, Public Safety Microwave & Radio Communications, and the LA CityView Channel 35 TV Station. Before joining ITA, Ross managed the successful citywide Financial Management System ERP Project with the Office of the Controller and IT systems for Department of Airports. He has over 17 years of private and public sector technology experience, earning various awards and IT credentials along the way.


Alicia Rouault, Senior Advisor to the Executive Director, Code for America. For the past three years, Roualt served as the CEO and co-founder of software company LocalData. She and her team won the 2012 Knight News Challenge Data Round, and they continue to work at the intersection of technology, urban planning and economic development. Rouault has a background in city planning with expertise in Housing and Economic Development. She conducted research with MIT's Civic Data Design Lab on data-driven urban planning for resilience, economic opportunity, and transit within the Center for Advanced Urbanism.


Deep Varma, Vice President, Data Engineering, Trulia. Varma manages data engineering functions across the Trulia business. This includes the vital acquisition of listings and public records, the consumer search experience and API, email/push, efforts to enhance personalization, industry leading location services such as geo coding, as well as data science, data warehouse, and reporting. During his 17 years of Silicon Valley experience Deep has focused on building large scale distributed data platforms with IBM, ABB, Yahoo! and two successful startups. Deep is a graduate of the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley.