A partial answer to "Open Data: who profits?"

Andy Oram (@praxagora on Twitter) just pointed to my attention what Steven Feldman asked Friday: #OpenData - who profits?.Thanks Andy!

This week I have a couple of urgent deadlines, and there are certainly many others who will provide more complete and articulate answers to the questions Feldman asks. Here I only want to write down a few notes, more as a public reminder for me to come back to this when I have more time, to think more seriously about it, and as a really quick draft of points to consider for a real answer and study, than as anything else.

In my humble opinion, the economic reasons to Open Data are (much) more:

  • helping existing and future businesses whose mission is NOT to generate data or data-services but using data to do something else entirely, which has little or nothing to do with ICT or data-services per se.
  • helping businesses and private citizens to save money. Just consider public transportation and the price of gas these days. Feldman “just cant see colossal opportunities in bus departures, live train info…”. probably there is little money to be made in providing those data or aggregating them online. First, even if the opportunities aren’t colossal, they’re great anyway, in this period. Second, and above all, the money that people can save if they always know how to move quickly to get the best deal on something, drive aroung traffic accidens or generally minding their own business, is huge.
  • reduce the costs of many government offices. If office A doesn’t have anymore to pay (with money or time spent to ask permission, re-entry data in incompatible systems etc…) for data from office B, I do make money (eventually, at least) as a taxpayer.
  • in money saved not to guard data that doesn’t need guards, see what Eaves wrote a few months ago about the cost of FOIA requests pointing towards untolerable levels

Another point I’d make is that what Feldman says is partly due to the fact that to get the most benefits what should be open is not only government data. Mixing those with data that are or should be public but aren’t open, e.g. corporate data, can help to make or save a lot of money, in and out government. Enough for now, hope to come back to this soon.