Open data could turn Europe’s digital desert into a digital rainforest

Joanna Roberts interviews Dirk Helbing, Professor of Computational Social Science at ETH Zurich at Horizon: “…If we want to be competitive, Europe needs to find its own way. How can we differentiate ourselves and make things better? I believe Europe should not engage in the locked data strategy that we see in all these huge IT giants. Instead, Europe should engage in open data, open innovation, and value-sensitive design, particularly approaches that support informational self-determination. So everyone can use this data, generate new kinds of data, and build applications on top. This is going to create ever more possibilities for everyone else, so in a sense that will turn a digital desert into a digital rainforest full of opportunities for everyone, with a rich information ecosystem.’…
The Internet of Things is the next big emerging information communication technology. It’s based on sensors. In smartphones there are about 15 sensors; for light, for noise, for location, for all sorts of things. You could also buy additional external sensors for humidity, for chemical substances and almost anything that comes to your mind. So basically this allows us to measure the environment and all the features of our physical, biological, economic, social and technological environment.
‘Imagine if there was one company in the world controlling all the sensors and collecting all the information. I think that might potentially be a dystopian surveillance nightmare, because you couldn’t take a single step or speak a single word without it being recorded. Therefore, if we want the Internet of Things to be consistent with a stable democracy then I believe we need to run it as a citizen web, which means to create and manage the planetary nervous system together. The citizens themselves would buy the sensors and activate them or not, would decide themselves what sensor data they would share with whom and for what purpose, so informational self-determination would be at the heart, and everyone would be in control of their own data.’….
A lot of exciting things will become possible. We would have a real-time picture of the world and we could use this data to be more aware of what the implications of our decisions and actions are. We could avoid mistakes and discover opportunities we would otherwise have missed. We will also be able to measure what’s going on in our society and economy and why. In this way, we will eventually identify the hidden forces that determine the success or failure of a company, of our economy or even our society….(More)”