This Week: The Open Data Antique Road Show

The calls for more data on open data have been heard. The Open Data Barometer is a new research project by World Wide Web Foundation and the Open Data Institute that attempts to measure the impact and growth of open data around the world. The Guardian reported on the initial findings. What I found most interesting was that while there is hardly any evidence of impact on open government data, where there I evidence, it tells a good story.

The article gave the example of Denmark where free-of-charge access to address data is estimated to have delivered a financial benefit of €62m to society, with a cost of only €2m. Data can be the hidden Monet sitting in our dusty hard drives. What we could use is an “Antique Roadshow” to tell us what our data is worth.

Explore the Barometer data with an interactive tool created by Dave Tarrant of the Open Data Institute.

Open Data Barometer

Meanwhile, in a different data context, Owen Barder talks about how data can, and has been, used by NGOs to “probe-sense-respond” to issues. He gives the example of a project for reducing re-offending former inmates of Peterborough Prison and how data has helped them to pinpoint trends, and then adapt, and it seems to be working.

Both instances are a part of the picture that would support Nancy Birdall’s theory on the Future of Aid. Birdsall argues that by 2030 ODA will not exist, being replaced by non-concessional loans from development banks and transfers from high-income to developing countries to support global public goods (e.g. reducing crime, terrorism and deforestation). Her theory also suggests that instead of a global poverty line, each country will have their own specific poverty lines they are fighting.

For this theory to become reality, the goal to eliminate “extreme poverty” must first be achieved. There are a million pieces of the puzzle that come into play in the battle against extreme poverty, and data is an edge piece. You always start with the edge. It’s easy to spot (most open government data already exists unopened), and it sets the frame for the rest. Data allows us to analyze, to learn and improve, to focus.

Birdsall’s theory also relies on market-led growth within developing countries, the sort that could benefit from more “Monet” data discoveries. But we still need more data to tell these stories to prove what it can do.

I like Birdsall’s theory. I like it because it’s a better world and one that I want to see. So let’s pick out the edge pieces.

Weekly updates are written by Taryn Davis of Development Gateway; email her your tips for next week's update to get a shout-out in the post.

Tags: open data