What do businesses really look for in open data?

Harvey Lewis in Computer Weekly:  “In 2015, the UK’s primary open data portal, www.data.gov.uk, will be six years old. The portal hosts approximately 20,000 official data sets from central government departments and their agencies, local authorities and other public sector bodies across the country. Just over half of these data sets are available as open data under the Open Government Licence (OGL). Data.gov.uk forms part of an international network of over three hundred open data efforts that have seen not just thousands but millions of data sets worldwide becoming freely available for personal or commercial use. [See http://datacatalogs.org and www.quandle.com].
…simply publishing open data does not guarantee that a business will use it…., if businesses are building new products or services, or relying on the data to inform their strategy, a number of characteristics other than just openness become critical in determining success:

  • Provenance – what is the source of the data and how it was collected? Is it authoritative?
  • Completeness and accuracy – are the examples and features of the data present and correct, and, if not, is the quality understood and documented?
  • Consistency – is the data published in a consistent, easy-to-access format and are any changes documented?
  • Timeliness – is the data available when it is needed for the time periods needed?
  • Richness – does the data contain a level of detail sufficient to answer our questions?
  • Guarantees of availability – will the data continue to be made available in the future?

If these characteristics cannot be guaranteed in open data or are unavailable except under a commercial licence then many businesses would prefer to pay to get them. While some public sector bodies – particularly the Trading Funds – have, over the years, established strong connections with business users of their data and understand their needs implicitly, the Open Data Institute is the first to cement these characteristics into a formal certification scheme for publishers of open data.
A campaign is needed to get publishers to adopt these certificates and to recognise that, economically at least, they are as important as Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s five-star scale for linked open data.  ….”