Open Data innovation has been on the radar of leaders in both public and private sector for the last five years.
On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. On the next day, he issued the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, endorsing the opening of government data and committing to accountability. In the early months of his second term in office in 2013, Mr. Obama issued an executive order to make open and machine-readable the new default for government information.
“As one vital benefit of open government, making information resources easy to find, accessible, and usable can fuel entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery that improves Americans’ lives and contributes significantly to job creation,” the executive order says.
The open data policy movement has been gaining traction globally in recent years, with governments and cities opening more and more datasets and encouraging citizens to contribute with apps and innovations. Apart from the obvious benefits of public accountability and transparency, open data innovation fosters a culture of creativity and ingenuity.
The rise of data openness serves established companies to develop new products, define new markets, and change the way they compete. Furthermore, open data innovation allows bright entrepreneurial minds to create new products and services, generating value for the global economy.
A few months after President Obama’s executive order on open data, McKinsey Global Institute published an analysis which had estimated that open data innovation has the potential to unlock $3 trillion to $5 trillion in economic value annually across seven industries globally: education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, healthcare, and consumer finance.
The European Commission’s European Data Portal said in 2015 that it had estimated the cumulative value of open data innovation in the EU between 2016 and 2020 at 325 billion euros.
All those estimates point to the huge, and oftentimes unlocked, the value of open data for the global economy and society as a whole. Some early adopters among established organizations and a growing number of startups have embraced open data innovation. They are using open data not only as an additional resource for analytics to combine with internal proprietary data; they are building new services on top of open data sets and opening data for others to use.
The BBC launched in 2014 BBC Things, to give anyone access to the data the organization stores about concepts. The data, available in standard open data formats, is about the places, people, and organizations that appear in BBC programs and online content. The data uses semantic technology and Linked Data which power up BBC ‘s Linked Data Platform. The machine readable formats of the data allow developers to create new applications or combine BBC’s data with other open data sources to create completely new datasets.
The rise of open data has been exciting and fascinating creative and resourceful minds and many developers and startups have been leveraging its application potential.
The first open data innovative application that comes to mind is transportation apps since many big and smart cities have open transport data available and many residents and tourists find such apps highly useful. Citymapper offers transportation options in 34 cities worldwide, including New York, Paris, London, Sydney, Saint Petersburg and Mexico City. Citymapper uses open transport data with live and real-time routing updated every minute and combines the data with data from Google, Apple, OpenStreetMaps, Foursquare, Yelp, Uber, Hailo, Car2Go, and Autolib. Announcing in January 2016 that it had raised new financing of $40 million, Citymapper said: “We’re a utility that could be useful to anyone building anything.” The company is developing APIs to enable developers and other businesses to use them for their own websites and applications.
Apart from transportation apps based on open data, chances are that you’ve consumed the open data innovation and open source in your music streaming service. Spotify, for example, relies on MusicBrainz for information about artists. MusicBrainz is a free and open source service which collects music metadata and makes it available to the public.
As more and more companies and startups are creating business and deriving social value out of open data innovation, the open data trend-setting governments and local authorities are not sitting idle and are opening up data sets and actively encouraging citizens, developers, and firms to innovate with open data.
US Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe launched in July 2016 the Open Data, Open Jobs initiative to provide an open data set of available jobs in Virginia so that entrepreneurs can use the data to create apps and programs. The initiative combines data from multiple, publicly available sources of job postings into one machine-readable file, Gov. McAuliffe’s office said.
Australia’s New South Wales has its Innovation Initiative to foster private, research and community efforts to help make data more available and develop smart applications for improved information and services for the people. The Fire Near Me alert service is a result of New South Wales’s open data innovation policy.
Quite naturally, innovation is one of the main driving forces at NASA, and it has its OpenNASA website for open data sets and stories and innovation contests. NASA is setting data, code, and APIs free in order to empower and encourage developers to use NASA resources, including imagery, in their efforts to solve challenges on Earth.
One of NASA’s winners in innovation is Cropp, an app to alert farmers about the status of their crops. The system uses 3D printed bottles with local sensors, as well as satellite-obtained optical and radar images to study the development of any potential threats to crops.
From the local bus schedule to space observation apps, open data creates and upgrades innovation at all levels and areas of society. Now it’s up to governments to continue promoting data openness and to organizations and developers to boost the use of open data, both as a resource and a service.
“Our key challenge is to make organizations realize that open data is core to their business, to innovation and not peripheral,”
Gavin Starks, CEO of the Open Data Institute (ODI), said in Capgemini Consulting’s Digital Transformation Review published in October 2015.
The more organizations realize the social, entrepreneurial and economic value which open data creates, the more innovative services customers will get and the more money they will generate for the global economy. As Mr. Starks put it – “if we start sharing our information, we will benefit too”.