Analytics/Big Data

Is Open Data Going Big?

With the recent announcement in the last G8 of the Open Data Charter, the uptake of Open Data gets a significant boost.

Open Data basically refers to opening up government data so that it becomes available for all. The charter contains five basic principles:

The main advantages are that Open Data will increase government transparency and enable innovation. Both are more than welcome in the current world situation. We need to be aware, however, that Open Data does not add value per se. It is a necessary, but not sufficient condition: Open Data is an enabler for others to provide value.

This is a very compelling concept, which will create many opportunities for innovation through startups and industries. The Open Data Institute is a good example of this. The image below shows a word cloud of tweets mentioning concepts related to Open Data on the day after the Charter announcement.

But Open Data is also valuable for helping companies become more data-driven and leave behind the era of the HIPPOs (highest paid person's opinion). Currently, Business Intelligence of many companies focuses on storing, processing and analyzing company-internal data (transactions, logs, websites, etc). Adding Open Data helps companies to become less egocentric and analyze relevant external data in the same environment. Moreover, adding social media analytics (sentiment analysis) to the equation brings companies closer to the much needed 360-degree view of the market and their customers.

When Open Data becomes the standard, it will become big-data, a multi-billion, multi-sector opportunity. Today, according to Google Trends, Open Data is still behind big-data, as can be seen below.

By becoming big-data, Open Data will also come up against the main issue of big-data: Big Brother, or, in other words, privacy. In the past few years, privacy has received a huge amount of attention, especially with the rise of online advertising through the likes of Google, Facebook and others that offer free services where the user is the product rather than the customer. Privacy scandals that have occurred so far have been almost always the result of usage of data without awareness or consent of the users. Personal data usage for legal or national security reasons has not been conflictive… so far.

With the PRISM scandal of the US's NSA, this is changing, as it is generating a lot of questions, opinions and proposed actions. However, we don't know whether this is just a temporal storm or whether it will structurally change privacy laws across the world.

Whatever the outcome will be, the one sure thing is that all stakeholders, including society, companies, regulators, governments, and the European Commission have started a journey that will change the privacy situation for good, but nobody can predict the final destination of the journey -- will it be more restrictive to protect consumers or more liberal to stimulate innovation?

— Dr. V.R. (Richard) Benjamins, Director of Business Intelligence, Telefónica Digital

rbenjamins 8/21/2013 | 3:18:38 AM
Re: Open data in practice Thank you, Sarah. The current paradigm for discussing privacy related issues in the digital world forces all stakeholders to think in terms of black and white: opt-in/opt-out, innovation/protection, personal/anonymous, etc. While those are all key aspects, there is a third element that should enter in the discussion, which is the final user whose data is at stake: let him/her decide how to deal with his/her data (like money in the bank)! This is the journey we all have to start and hopefully will bring us to the next level of the data industry.

Open Data is about "giving back to society" aggregated data held by governments and institutions about citizens and artifacts in locations (countries, cities, etc). This is just a first step in the open data value chain, and Open Data is still in its infancy. But I personally believe that it will become big (business, social) in the coming 5-10 years.
Sarah Thomas 8/20/2013 | 6:10:29 PM
Open data in practice Thank you for the interesting post, Richard! I hope the PRISM situation will lead to more open, transparent practices, but fear that it will lead to a tighter grip on data and more attempts to control it.

I like the idea of open data, but it seems tricky to implement. How do you draw the line on what is shared, what's useful, and to whom? Does there become a data division, or is it implemented throughout a company?
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