Free our data!
The UK and many other Governments are taking the first steps towards freeing up the mass of data held on our behalf. This is a crucial period in history for democracy because if handled right, the movement could usher in a new era of of mass participation and re-engagment in politics. It is also a watershed moment for public services and social entrepreneurs. What economic and social value can be generated with all this data? How can we make more innovative products and services for less?
Science & Innovation 2010 Ordnance Survey Seminar
It is fair to say that from the the inside of a large public organisation freeing up data voluntarily is a lot more progressive that waiting for the the Freedom of Information Act requests. Probably less time-intensive too. However data won’t leap up and create any value by itself any more than a pile of discarded parts outside a factory will assemble themselves into a car. The secret of successful open innovation using public data then is more likely to be with working people to solve some specific problem. Simply releasing the data is not enough. The overarching question that emerged at the seminar ‘Underpinning Innovation with Geography’ which I chaired last week was, in effect, what do organisations expect people do do with all this data? It is a salutary fact that only a tiny minority of the 272,677 datasets available on Data.gov in the US have been used in creating apps or web sites. Why is this and how can data publishers help developers create value?
Do’s and Don’ts
Ordnance Survey are extremely interested in these questions – it’s the second year of their Geovation programme which supports open innovation using geographic data. Other public organisations are opening up too – Warwickshire County Council and the Governments’ own National Archive presented their own leading edge initiatives at the seminar.With an audience largely composed of policy makers, the Q&A session visited the practical, legal and moral issues that arise. You can find copies of the speaker presentations here. Here are the resulting themes presented as do’s and don’ts:
As ever, please let us know what you think. There may be more than 10 of each!