Could the key to better government lie in its mountains of already free and available data

Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt founded the Open Data Institute in 2011 to encourage governments to supply better access to government information with the hope that it could be used to solve the world's most pressing issues. 

ODI Locks Up 1st Round of Private Funding

With the official launch of the ODI this week, the not for profit group has announced it has won an initial private investment of US$ 750,000 over two years from the Omidyar Network. That is on top of the 2 million pounds sterling over five years already promised from the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB).

ODI will allow people and organizations to explore and understand social and cultural trends using open government data, and also help them find and exploit untapped markets, Gavin Starks, ODI chief executive, said in a statement.

New research from analyst firm Deloitte showed the website has been getting more traffic than either of its counterparts in the US or France despite the fact it contains less information overall. Demand on the website is up 285% from January 2010 to September 2012, the research found, and that makes a UK based organization like ODI a good fit for incubating new companies to exploit the data.

Four Startups Launched

Since ODI's founding, four startups have moved into its UK headquarters, and we were most intrigued by one called Mastadon C. One of the ideas this group had was to figure out how eco friendly the world's data centers are, and it turns out, they aren't.

Mastadon C has calculated CO2 emissions per hour for the most popular m1.xlarge or equivalent cloud locations like Azure, Rackspace and Amazon Web Services data centers


Green is good. The most efficient centers in green with Iceland being the most carbon neutral.

This is an ongoing project, and Mastadon C assures these calculations are only modeled on assumptions, but as more info becomes available, the group said it would update the map. Mastadon C is an analytics firm specializing in Hadoop clusters and machine learning.

The three other startups being housed by ODI so far are called Placr, Locatable and OpenCorporates. Placr focuses on public transit options and making sure people have access to the most up to date data on all that it encompasses. The service unifies timetables, for example, and houses live departures and disruption information for bus, rail, metro and ferry services.

Locatable is a service that could help home buyers by supplying as much data as possible on the locations of those houses. People who want to move to a new location might want to know about commute times, restaurant and bar location and crime rates, for example, and Locatable puts all that data into one place.

OpenCorporates is a database of companies, and the group organizes the disparate corporate, government and FOIA information into one usable format. 

This is all good news, and whatever other businesses come out of ODI, we are encouraged to see the likes of Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, getting involved. Berners-Lee is already a living legend, so under his guidance, ODI will likely energize a new generation of people-powered, data savvy organizations.