What could opening up access to data do for us?

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Governments, organizations and businesses have vast quantities of data they have collected over the years – and continue to generate more daily.

The amount of data out there can overwhelm anyone trying to analyze and make sense of it.

Let’s say you could have access to this data and were able to process and analyze it – what would that help you do?

You could:

  • See how governments spend their money.
  • Look at patterns of energy usage across economies.
  • Study the distribution of wealth and poverty.
  • Improve how we track and predict weather.
  • Monitor fair trading in stock markets.

and much more.

The idea that making data available to people will help with both understanding and accountability, while also increasing innovation is why the UK government has started to publish datasets on data.gov.uk.

Organisations such as the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Open Data Institute are helping to create guidance, tools and networks that make it possible for people to obtain and study data and share their findings.

Why does this matter?

For a start – there is a big market out there for data and analytics. You can now get Data as a Service (DaaS) products, allowing you to analyze everything from electricity and gas prices in Europe to pig futures in Kansas.

Organisations that are able to effectively use data for decision making can improve their processes, reduce prices and stay competitive.

But there are bigger challenges that can also only be achieved through transparency and cross-sector work.

For example, many large organisations are voluntarily taking action to cut their carbon emissions, through participating in programmes like Science Based Targets.

Others aren’t, partly because they haven’t the time, see it as a cost or just don’t know how to get started.

We need to start by making it easier to analyze their data through projects like Frictionless Data that help collect, share and validate data.

If you could see how your retail store portfolio compared with others in terms of carbon emissions per sales, you might be motivated to improve your performance.

Whether the motivation is financial, social, competitive or for research and interest purposes – opening up data is going to have a big impact on making the organizations we interact with more transparent, agile and accountable.

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