open data

OpenText is not in the habit of giving away money. Neither is the Canadian government. However, in recent weeks, each has given $3 million to the newly formed Open Data Institute in Canada.

But open data is not a Canadian initiative, it is a global movement that is creeping into businesses everywhere — and the focus of an International Open Data Day tomorrow.

Big Value in Open Data

In fact in a recent interview with Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute and co-author of one of the seminal reports on the use of big data in 2011, the use of open data has spread rapidly with 40 governments offering information portals and many private companies now getting on board.

McKinesy researchers estimate the potential value of open data is around $3 trillion. That's divide roughly between the United States ($1.1 trillion), Europe ($900 billion) and the rest of the world ($1.7 trillion). While the economic value is enormous, it's not the only driving force in the creation a number of open data institutes that aim to promote the use and propagation of open data.

In that earlier interview, Chiu said, "Open data has traditionally been motivated by societal goals such as improving transparency. But it is important to recognize that by opening data, you also create significant economic value."

According to the Open Data Institute (ODI), launched in the UK in 2012 by Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Artificial Intelligence pioneer Nigel Shadbolt in 2012, open data can and should be used to create business opportunities.

The ODI in the UK has secured $21.6 million over five years from the UK Government and $750,000 from the Omidyar Network, an investment firm established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidya. The group is working towards long-term sustainability through match funding and direct revenue.

But this is not a uniquely British affair. Already there are 13 "nodes" or hubs — essentially hubs for companies, universities and NGOs around the world to support open data projects and communities.

Initially, 13 nodes signed-up to the ODI charter in October including two country-wide trials with NGOs in the USA and Canada. There were an eight city or regional nodes, including ODI Chicago, ODI North Carolina and ODI Paris. In fact, only this week, another five nodes were created including hubs in Osaka, Philadelphia and Hawaii.

Data And Business

Emma Thwaites is with the ODI in the UK. Speaking recently to CMSWire, she outlined how open data is being used in the public and private sector.

In one instances, she said, ODI UK worked with Mastadon C, an agile big data specialist to analyze the way a heart disease medication was being prescribed by doctors in the UK. By applying analytics to open data that was made available by the National Health Service (the UK’s Department of Health), they were able to identify new ways of prescribing the medication that could save the British taxpayer nearly $333 million annually.

Needless to say, that caught the UK government’s attention. However, the private sector is just as interested. The ODI also worked with a number of financial institutions with information they released as open data to identify and improve money lending patterns across the country.

Open Data in the US

If the concept of open data, and the development of similar organizations to ODI UK is less well developed in the US, it is only a temporary situation.