Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Open Data and the Autumn Statement tomorrow

Today I was at the Open Data Institute http://www.theodi.org launched by Francis Maude and David Willetts. Sir Tim Berners-Lee set it up to create knowledge for everyone.  I didn't realise the implications it may have and the repercussions across our society until I went today.  Access to open data may change the way we interact with economics and our world.

OPEN DATA AND ECONOMICS
On the eve of the autumn statement where most of the pain in dealing with our deficit has come from tax rises and cuts in investment, how may we get rid of the deficit in the future?  Well the future may be using open data.

HOW? Accessing large quantities of data and putting it through statistical tests will help us understand where there are weaknesses in economic and business models.  It will then give government departments more factual back up to cut areas that aren't economically viable.  Fundamentally it may bring a new kind of infrastructure spending to all areas of business - including politics.

In the future we won't be guessing where to make cuts we will have statistical and factual backing to know where best to make cuts.  The decisions could be more statistical than intuitive and emotional.  It is already happening in education and crime. As our data increases so will our knowledge of how to implement it. Whether this is a good thing only time will tell.

We in Britain have a large backlog of data that we can use to understand the world today.  For example merchant navy records may help us understand climate change better.

OPEN DATA AND OUR WORLD.
During the afternoon I met a number of data entrepreneurs.  One company can take data and plot it visually.  The demonstration I saw was the use of open data on pharmaceutical prescriptions and they plotted it on a graph showing what areas in the UK have the highest number of prescriptions. Visualising data makes it so much more accessible than numbers on a page.

Another company uses data to help you find a house.  Locatable http://www.locatable.com/ can help you find where to live.  You put in where you work and where your girlfriend lives and it tells you the easiest place in London to live - in a few months you may even be able to search on living close to outstanding schools or the best pubs.  With one in three google searches being about location this may have further implications.  Only time will tell how our innovative entrepreneurs will put this into practise and help us interact more effectively with our world.

Nick Robinson discussing the Autumn statement on the Ten o'clock news tonight  said that it's data that counts.  Increasingly I believe the use of open data will be used to make considered judgements on how to cut spending and where to invest.

OPEN DATA AND INVESTMENT
David Willetts and Francis Maude said they wanted Britain to be at the centre of the open data revolution.  In particular satellite data.  The three things they argue it brings is
1) accountability and therefore it counters corruption.  Francis Maude discussed how the Ugandan government uses satellite data to find out if local companies have built schools they were contracted to do.  With the data they can see if the works have been completed.
2) Informed Choice by increasing information over a longer time
3) Help the growth agenda and the creation of wealth and opportunity - both in developing new businesses and identifying cost cutting

David Willetts said today we don't yet know the economic value that open data will bring.  We do know that there is an investment of £10m over 5 years into it. Only time will tell how it gets interpreted into society, business and politics.