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:
- Open Data by Default
- Quality and Quantity
- Usable by All
- Releasing Data for Improved Governance
- Releasing Data for Innovation
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