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Open Data Is Bigger Than Big Data Once It’s Released

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the free world wide web, should always be listened to with respect. Towards the end of last year he was suggesting pointers towards the next revolution and what he said about the dataweb makes a lot of sense.

What’s the Difference?

He wants, as he told Matt Warman of the Daily Telegraph (2 November 2013) ‘companies, governments, organisations and even, to some extent, individuals to open up their data.

Warman pointed out that’s not revolutionary by itself, but Berners-Lee sees machines running ever more complicated amounts of data on both sides of any interaction, business, logistical or personal. Machines will do it far more efficiently than humans.

He said, ‘it’s an internet of things, where inanimate objects are online communicating with each other and performing tasks that humans consider too mundane.’

Open Data Institute

This newish body has been set up by Berners-Lee and he runs it with Sir Nigel Shadbolt. The website explains:

‘The Open Data Institute is catalysing the evolution of open data culture to create economic, environmental, and social value. It helps unlock supply, generates demand, creates and disseminates knowledge to address local and global issues.
We convene world-class experts to collaborate, incubate, nurture and mentor new ideas, and promote innovation. We enable anyone to learn and engage with open data, and empower our teams to help others through professional coaching and mentoring.’

Besides publishing information and documents freely, they organise courses such as one in January, Open Data in a Day, Open Data for Marketers and even one called Introduction to open data for journalists: finding stories in data.

I wondered if MBF Blogs would sponsor me to go on one of these courses! One section is on crowdsourcing a story and ‘using the crowd to help analyse your data.’

The Open Data Bug

Berners-Lee believes there is a battle of mindsets in people, but once they have got the open data bug they realise the benefits of ‘performing a service to the country.’

So, no more concerns about privacy, confidentiality and commercial angles, then? He cites Transport for London, where the total money saved by releasing data – ‘in shorter queues, less waiting or fewer visits to ticket offices‘ means that for every pound invested in open data, £45 was saved.

That is serious money. The mindset aspect is important. He said when he tried to release crime data, some Chief Constables worried ‘public confidence in the police would collapse, the price of houses would collapse.’ He said ‘it never happens. People see data as a tool worth having.’

As more linking is done across different data sets, Berners-Lee believes real achievements will start to come.

The instinct of government at every level and whether elected or civil service is to keep back data and information. Knowledge is power. But if Berners-Lee is right, the liberation of open data freely and fully shared will be liberating for everyone in our society.

And if you’re worried about your job or those of your children, the answer seems to be to look forward to a ‘new cadre of professionals, all of them prefixed with word ‘data’.’ Data analyst, data miner, data cleaner, data presenter, data resourcer, data builder, data security officer, data lawyer, data disposal operative ……

No Data Doubts

So, if Big Data is quantities, Open Data is more about quantity and quality.

Nobody should be in any doubt of the economic significance of any data. Amazon Web Services (AWS) for example, might soon be Amazon’s most significant product (worth $50 billion next year) as it’s available at a price to anyone and is just enormous.

Apple, Facebook and Google also invest massively in their data resources, because that is the lifeblood of future business. All these data villages being built are constantly running, so the fight is on to make them greener, more efficient and sustainable. They must never break down or be compromised.

Happy sharing!

Get more data from:

The Open Data Institute

The Technology Strategy Board

If More Data Sharing Is the Answer, What is the Question? 29 April 2013

Catch It Here and Hold It Down: Stuff in the Air About Data, 18 November 2013

In the Future, The Average Is History, the Machine Is King, 30 September 2013

Data-Mining Is Still the Hottest Controversial Around With Far-Reaching Ramifications, 20 September 2013

Big Data Is Worth More Than Gold and Oil Put Together, 3 September 2013

No Place for the Human Touch in Complex Algorithms, 20 August 2013

Game-Changing Networks Are the Secret to British Business Success, 4 February 2013