Written by Joel Gurin, “Open Data Now” has being published early this year and “presents a strategy for success in the coming era of massive data”. The author, a former sciencejournalist who also worked as consumer advocate before turning into the federal administration, has the experience to give us an overview on how Open Data is affecting both private and public sector. Although useful for everyone interested in the topic, this book is specially dedicated for entrepreneurs, small business owners and corporate executiveswilling to build additional value on top of it. Not to forget that its subtitle reads: “The Secret to Hot Startups, Smart Investing, Savvy Marketing, and Fast Innovation”.
But also for citizens, advocates and researchers
The 14-chapters-book begins defining the concept of Open Data and shares details on how the movement got developed in its origins in the US. Already in the introduction, the author remarks the positive impact of Open Data in the private sector, and this focus remains present along the entire book. However, it is described how Open Data also acts as a regulatory mechanism that pushes organisations towards being more transparent. Different cases are presented where data is used to raise awareness on social or local issues, to improve public safety or to condemn irregularities that affect citizens.
But not only private companies and governments are being influenced by this new movement. The scientific research is a field where sharing data is also playing a very important role. Stressing the concept of Open Innovation, chapter ten gives examples of research institutions which are directly profiting from an increasing amount of data being released. Collaboration between scientists and crowdsourcing strategies are defined as new elements for the success of academic and scientific challenges. Reading these pages, we thought automatically about DNADigest.org, the initiative for sharing genomics data for research we previously covered.
As the reader can notice, the book focuses on the status of Open Data in the US and UK. Most of the examples come from there. It is clear that both countries are leaders in this global movement, but what happens with others? Can the contents of this book be applied to other parts of the world? We were curious about this and asked the author:
- Mr. Gurin, your research is mainly based on the context of the US and UK. As you mentioned, Open Data is now a global topic and we can find actors in every continent. What was the reason to leave out other countries? Should we expect a second book with a worldwide approach?
I can’t say yet whether I’ll write a second book – I’m still spreading the word about this one! I focused on the US and UK in Open Data Now because this book is largely focused on business applications of Open Data, and my sense is that those have developed first and most extensively in those two countries. However, the Open Data 500 project (see below) has attracted interest from countries around the world, and we’re now preparing to replicate it in a dozen countries or more. I hope that will help bring a broader international perspective to the field.
Personal data for consumer’s benefit
In the third chapter, the concept of smart disclosure gets presented as a tool to help consumers take better decisions and spend money more wisely in different areas such as healthcare, energy or education. Furthermore, an efficient use of open governmental data leads to the creation of new business opportunities, some of them are illustrated along these pages.
The same chapter is also dedicated to the value of personal data. Although this information should not be qualified as open, its use offers benefits both for consumers and service providers (i.e optimizing shopping, helping to choose the best health insurance or finding a suitable house). It is in this part that we experienced for the first time about the “Blue Button” and “Green Button” initiatives which allow patients and consumers in the US download their medical and energy consumption reports respectively. We asked Mr. Gurin a second question in order to get more information about this:
- Mr. Gurin, do you think that users are ready to share their personal data with third parties? At what price? Will this kind of data get the same momentum as Open Data has? Is the internet enough safe to allow a sustainable and secure development of this area?
This is a great question, and one that we can’t answer yet. My best guess is that consumers will be attracted to “personal data vaults” – the new technologies for storing your personal data in a secure way – because they promise a way to keep individual data safe and under the user’s control. Once personal data vaults become common, they’ll offer the opportunity for people to share their personal data selectively and securely with third parties who can help them by knowing more about them. Whether we can make the Internet safe enough to prevent serious data breaches, however, remains a question.
“Open Data Now” is not only a book
As the author states,“ the world of Open Data is moving fast, and no book on this topic can be completely current”. That’s why Mr. Gurin has created the website opendatanow.com which contains a blog with news and links to follow the latest developments, debates and opportunities around the topic. We encourage you to visit it to stay updated and also discover about the Open Data 500 project: a study run by The Governance Lab where the author serves as senior advisor. It consists on identifying 500 of the US companies that use open government data to generate new business and develop new products and services. The upcoming release is planned for early 2014 and will allow researchers to download collected data. A very interesting idea that will definitely help to monitor the influence of Open Data in the business sector in the US.
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