That ‘data is the new oil’ should not be news to anyone. Data, particularly Open data, plays a major role in many digital social innovations.
Making more data available freely is already creating more insights and shining a light onto previously unseen areas, as it enables entrepreneurs to mine the data for new insights. Open Corporates is a great example of this, encouraging corporations to publish their information of to create more transparency around global corporate structures.
Through the city of Vienna’s Open Data programme, it has released 160 datasets, which in turn has led to the development of more than 109 public apps; Vienna has demonstrated the huge innovative potential for organisations who own large amounts of data.
Another inspirational example is the collaboration between the NGO Praxis and the Estonian government on Meieraha, which uses open data to create more transparency about the Estonian state budget. The UNGlobalPulse initiative is also showing how international agencies are aiming to adapt their workings to make much more of the opportunity of big data drawn from the field in real time.
- Big Data refers to large volumes of raw data gathered at high frequency with a high degree of complexity – things like mobile browsing information or worldwide bank transactions.
- Open data is the raw data that is gathered by people or organisations, published in an electronic format that machines can read; it is then shared online and allowed to be re-used by others instead of keeping it private.
- Linked data is data with extra information added to it to provide more contextual information to the machines that are interpreting it and to improve collaborations.
The opening up of data is one of the big challenges to making the most of the potential in open data. For this reason, Nesta is a core partner in the ‘360 giving’ initiative, which encourages funding data to be published in open formats, taking inspiration from the established IATI system for reporting aid data spending.
The Open Data Institute is also doing lots of work encouraging more data to be openly licensed for use by businesses and social entrepreneurs who want to use it to power new products and services.
Another crucial element of data is the open source tools that are being developed that make it much easier for people to manage and analyse it - from cleaning up your data using OpenRefine, to creating visualisations using Gephi graphs, Timemapper timelines or even communities like Visualizing.org.
Access to these tools means that more people will have the chance to analyse, interrogate and create useful services from the data as it is released. However, this valuable opportunity can only occur if they have the right skills and access to the data in correct, open formats.
We are just beginning to make the most of the potential in open data. As the amount and frequency of open data streams increases, it will be interesting to see to what extent this can result in better and higher impact social commons apps and web services.