Should open data matter? 

Does open data matter? Yes, it sure does. Open data is a way to harness the power of data and information to create value in society.

In my new role as the Founding Chair of the Open Data Institute Queensland – officially launching this week at the Queensland Premier’s Open Data Awards – I have written elsewhere that “our higher goal is to unlock the potential of information to make a positive difference in our society and in the lives of individual people and their families.” We believe that information is perhaps the only truly infinite resource, and is certainly one that holds enormous untapped potential. Our job is to unlock it.

But should open data matter? Ah, now that’s a different question. I’d suggest the answer is No!

If we do our job really well then the day should come when we say nostalgically: Do you remember when governments withheld their information, when we didn’t know what was going on, when good quality, relevant data about our society didn’t seem inexhaustible?

Can you recall the time when you couldn’t download an app or find a website for just about anything that’s relevant to the way we live and work? Is it even possible that we once had to navigate our way through bureaucracy, or pay a fee, just to find out about the information the government holds that affects our lives?

Was there really ever a time when business, academia and citizens were not voracious consumers and generous sharers of information, when a new innovation using a different mix of data from a different set of sources to solve a problem in an unexpected way didn’t appear every day?

Well, that may be some way off but let’s be clear that it’s the goal. Even now, we increasingly see ourselves as information platforms, equipped with smart devices giving us the opportunity to capture and share vast amounts of rich information using formats and channels of our choice. Even now, those ‘in the know’, armed with an innovative spirit, an inclination to share and collaborate and an understanding of opportunity in front of them, are pushing the boundaries.

So all of this must become mainstream and for every risk we take with information and data, in government and otherwise, we will be repaid tenfold.

Open data will become yesterday’s news and we will no longer be open data evangelists or enthusiasts; we will be data innovators at play in a great field of opportunity to improve society and people’s lives.

 

Neil Makepeace
Chief Executive Officer