Open Data for economic growth: the latest evidence

Andrew Stott at the Worldbank OpenData Blog: “One of the key policy drivers for Open Data has been to drive economic growth and business innovation. There’s a growing amount of evidence and analysis not only for the total potential economic benefit but also for some of the ways in which this is coming about. This evidence is summarised and reviewed in a new World Bank paper published today.
There’s a range of studies that suggest that the potential prize from Open Data could be enormous – including an estimate of $3-5 trillion a year globally from McKinsey Global Institute and an estimate of $13 trillion cumulative over the next 5 years in the G20 countries.  There are supporting studies of the value of Open Data to certain sectors in certain countries – for instance $20 billion a year to Agriculture in the US – and of the value of key datasets such as geospatial data.  All these support the conclusion that the economic potential is at least significant – although with a range from “significant” to “extremely significant”!
At least some of this benefit is already being realised by new companies that have sprung up to deliver new, innovative, data-rich services and by older companies improving their efficiency by using open data to optimise their operations. Five main business archetypes have been identified – suppliers, aggregators, enrichers, application developers and enablers. What’s more there are at least four companies which did not exist ten years ago, which are driven by Open Data, and which are each now valued at around $1 billion or more. Somewhat surprisingly the drive to exploit Open Data is coming from outside the traditional “ICT sector” – although the ICT sector is supplying many of the tools required.
It’s also becoming clear that if countries want to maximise their gain from Open Data the role of government needs to go beyond simply publishing some data on a website. Governments need to be:

  • Suppliers – of the data that business need
  • Leaders – making sure that municipalities, state owned enterprises and public services operated by the private sector also release important data
  • Catalysts – nurturing a thriving ecosystem of data users, coders and application developers and incubating new, data-driven businesses
  • Users – using Open Data themselves to overcome the barriers to using data within government and innovating new ways to use the data they collect to improve public services and government efficiency.

Nevertheless, most of the evidence for big economic benefits for Open Data comes from the developed world. So on Wednesday the World Bank is holding an open seminar to examine critically “Can Open Data Boost Economic Growth and Prosperity” in developing countries. Please join us and join the debate!
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