What exactly is open data and how can your business use it? Around Australia and the globe, governments are opening up public data assets to drive economic growth, encourage innovation and improve services for people.
According to Maree Adshead, founding CEO of the Open Data Institute (ODI) Australian Network, businesses have the ability to better understand their customers, market and internal business processes, among other things, by using freely available data.
“The concept of open data is not as complex as it may sound. Every one of us, in our everyday work and in our everyday lives generate vast amounts of data – even when we are unaware of it.”
In a business context, this means analysing facts and figures for a purpose. For example, when considering the location for a future business site, it would be advantageous to consider population growth, demographic information, proximity to public transport and highways, and nearby development approvals.
“Making such public data freely available empowers small businesses and individuals to draw new insights which in turn enables better and more informed decision-making,” explains Adshead.
The Open Data Institute Australian Network has been working with the Queensland Government to identify its own high value data sources.
The process kicked off with four ‘Deep Dive’ sessions involving 82 participants from across private, non-profit, public, academic and research sectors. The Deep Dives identified spatial data, transport data, data about companies and company regulation, and education as four keys areas of state government data holdings to mine for potential high value data releases. Work on characterising and prioritising high value public data assets in QLD continues.
Defining the characteristics of ‘high value’ data can be tricky. What makes data ‘valuable’? The way it’s maintained; the benefits it currently generates; its potential wider application? It’s a bit of all of the above.
In both federal and state government discussions, characteristics like robust metadata, comprehensive documentation, Application Programming Interfaces (API) and releases in real time have come up frequently as core to ‘high value’ data. These make data assets infinitely more usable; they don’t necessarily make a data asset more useful.
A real-life example of open data being used creatively comes from the Transport for London Authority, which published 61 data sets about its transport network in 2010.
“By 2012 over 5,000 developers were using those data sets and had created 362 different consumer apps designed to help commuters use the service more efficiently.”
As a flow-on effect, those apps were soon reaching an estimated four million people, with an overall economic impact of $30 – $100 million thanks to saved travel time, increased productivity and other social benefits, like more time spent with family.