Open Data is here to stay and governments globally have slowly, but steadily, since 2008, accepted this fact.  Extensively supported by senior government officials in most countries, the move to Open Data (defined as government data that is deliberately shared in a machine-readable format for free reuse by others) typically starts with government entities establishing an Open Data platform and publishing Open Data sets.

But what are the benefits of Open Data? And which parties need to cooperate to make those benefits visible and available to everyone?

Some examples of the benefits of Open Data are:

  • First-generation citizen-centric applications such as “Find my nearest hospital” and “Where are the public toilets”.
  • Access to real-time advice on how to avoid traffic congestion – alternative routes, predictions on approximate traffic waiting time, available options for vehicle parking and overnight accommodation, etc.
  • Emergency weather forecast reminders – reminders to buy emergency supplies for your home, reminders for safety check around your home/office area in case of a natural disaster, fuelling up the car at the gas station, etc.

The list of added-value services that can derive from Open Data streams is virtually limitless. Many governments, in the US and the UK in particular, have organised hackathons and similar competitive events to stimulate ideas among corporate enterprises, NGOs and individuals (entrepreneurs, IT programmers, students and academic institutions) about the potential use of Open Data.

The traditional governmental approach and mindset of prioritising data quantity over quality is one obstacle Open Data has to overcome. Another problem is inconsistency of data, as companies can’t use inconsistent data sets full of errors. These two issues are some of the reasons why we’re still waiting for efficient solutions for traffic congestion and protecting people’s homes in emergency situations. Before Open Data becomes a trusted and valuable input source for applications and information analytics, governments must  re-calibrate their standards and processes. Furthermore, there is a strong need for genuine collaboration between all parties. This will enable corporate investors to find the correct data sets and use them in a consistent manner to get a long-term, profitable business gain.

So, the good news is that, instead of publishing supply- and quantity-driven data sets, more and more governments are now partnering with the industry to produce demand- and quality-driven data sets. Governments understand that the real value of Open Data will come from the industry and from what the companies can do with the data to create benefits for the public.

Are you ready to participate in a new open dialog with your government to align the production of data sets to the services your industry wants to produce?