This isn’t something new, at least not brand new, but in any case it’s something I really wanted to put up here and discuss a bit… First of all, the Sir TB-L, as you might have guessed already, refers to Sir Tim Burners-Lee, the guy that only invented the World Wide Web! Founder of the World Wide Web Foundation and director of the World Wide Web Consortium, it’s obvious that when he proposes something, then you should better pay close attention.
Finding myself within the ecosystem of researchers that among other things, take close interest on open data, I came across his 5-star deployment scheme for Open Data some time ago. I decided to share and write a few words so that I spread the word even more! You can visit the link within the text for more information as my outlook on this will be much more simplified and biased. Looking at educational and cultural data mainly, I am always thinking ways of opening up data and more importantly discovering synergies and meaningful insights into the data, which would untimately lead to their exploitation and possibly monetization, so that they become sustainable in the long term.
Sir Tim Burners-Lee gives one star of openess to all the data that are licenced under an open licence (like PDDL, ODC-by and CC0). When open data are also shared with a specific structure (like in an excel file and not as a scanned image, for example), then you get two stars of openess! And when the data are available in formats that do not require commercial programs to be opened and explored (like MS Office for Excel), then you get a three stars of openess. And when you make your data available using a URI so that others can point to them, then you get your fourth star! To go all the way, and get the fifth star, you just need to link your data to other data to create network effects both for publishers but also for consumers of data.
What must come before all these nicely explained steps, is the realization that openess is good for you. Or to put it better, the embracement of openess as a way of thinking and more importantly doing business. My question and my only serious doubt on this, is whether or not people will come to this conclusion. I mean, just to be the devil’s advocate here, is it that easy or is it in your best interest to open up your data? It’s easy for someone that has lots of data of little or no value to advocate for openess. Even easier for the one that has no data. But what about the one that has lots of data with a high potential for profit. Will he open them? And why? Cause others will open their own too and then you’ll get the domino effect, leading all of us to bliss and happiness and profits all around?
On government data, and data that were generated through public spending, I do get it and they should have been open already. But as far as private sector goes, why not show a part of your data to someone that will also show theirs, and then come to a certain arrangement and only open your data to them and they open their data to you, in hopes of combining them to make a profit on predefined and agreed upon applications. For example, why not open your data of sales as a big supermarket to one of your big suppliers so that they can also improve their back-office operations while they offer some discount to you. And round it goes…
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for openess, I am. But like consumer goods, like knowledge, like technology or even time, data are also assets of some kind. And I highly doubt that in today’s economy, where data is maybe the biggest competitive advantage of all, that someone would open their hard-earned and hard-collected data to get nothing in exchange. And it’s this “exchange” that we need to focus on and use as an incentive to see whether this market of data can create new products, new services and job opportunities. In the end, I feel that in each sector/field, open data will look like something like the image below: