Time for a quick update on the progress towards full and real ‘open data’ in public services and in businesses.
We did get some correspondence from a reader who thought that we ought to be more precise grammatically about data. It is a plural word, so we should say, ‘data are more accessible than ever …’ and ‘data are exploding with total global volume predicted to reach 6.6 zettabytes (that’s apparently 10 to the power of 21 bytes) by the end of this decade.
A Few Months Ago
We discussed open data as opposed to big data in February, Open Data Is Bigger Than Big Data Once It’s Released.
In that blog we reported that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the free world wide web, was suggesting that companies, governments, organisations and individuals should open up their data. Machines can run ever more complex data on both sides of any interaction, business, logistical or personal. ‘Machines will do it far more efficiently than humans.’
It was and is, the internet of things, ‘where inanimate objects are online communicating with each other and performing tasks that humans consider too mundane.’ He 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 for a greater good, both altruistic and commercial.
To that end he set up the Open Data Institute (ODI) to ‘catalyse 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.’
Now It’s Gaining Traction
Sophie Curtis debated the issue in the Daily Telegraph (June 2014) and cited the Department for Education publishing open data about schools’ performance which allows ‘companies to create league tables and citizens can find the best-performing schools in their catchment area.’
There have been league tables and copious quantities of data in the past and since Ofsted arrived, they have made public loads of it. The point is now that people can draw their own conclusions from public data, that information can now be tailored without losing credibility.
She said that since January 2010, some 14,500 UK government data sets have been released. These have ‘created new opportunities for organisations to build innovative digital services’.
Sir Nigel Shadbolt of the ODI told Curtis, ‘the whole move in the 21st century to a data-driven economy means that countries need a data infrastructure that is fit for purpose and a good part of that infrastructure is going to be open data.’
Just one project as an example – the use of branded statins over cheaper generic versions – is thought to have saved the NHS £200m a year. And that is just a start.
Open Means Without Any Boundaries
Obviously this is not about compromising the privacy of people’s personal data that could lead to crime against them or unacceptable loss of privacy, but it is about harnessing better the plethora of data to benefit us all.
Start up companies dealing in high-tech carbon metering/monitoring and in energy consumption are areas ripe to analyse data and come up with eye-watering savings.
In every area which is regarded as ‘public’, there are potential savings and opportunities for private sector businesses to take advantage, crunch the stats themselves and generate new revenue.
Look at the areas of:
- defence procurement
- NHS supplies and delivery of treatments and medicines
- education delivery from infants to universities
- transport maintenance and new build or roads, rail and air travel
- better delivery of law and order policies
In short, there are no areas of service delivery which cannot be improved from basic timetables, instructions, monitoring right up to complex systems involving millions (of pounds and lives).
If any government can crack this and prove it is really open for open business the potential is massive in tax gains, jobs, expansion and quality of life.
What’s not to like about open data?
Recent blogs on some of these matters:
A Helpful Update on Big Data and Its Uses, 19 March 2014
Big Data Is Worth More Than Gold and Oil Put Together, 3 September 2013