Today's discussions at the NYeC Digital Health Conference 2011
were a great reminder of the value of open data. I have seen Todd Park speak about HealthData.gov and 'Data Liberacion' on several occasions (great presentation here
), and one can't help but be convinced. His key example, weather data, proves the point: when NOAA decided to make weather data available for free in a machine readable format, they enabled the development of a whole weather data ecosystem. Weather channels, weather websites, weather apps, weather insurance, and so on, creating jobs and economic value.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has made great strides in making data available from community health metrics to FDA recall data and government health spending. The launch of data.gov, healthdata.gov and the Health Indicators Warehouse have helped providing a central access point for many of these datasets.
As I wrote just recently, other governments are following suit. The UK launched their open data site data.gov.uk in 2010 and has just reaffirmed their commitment to open data with an additional open data push. Statistics Canada is making all online data available for free, forsaking revenue for creating greater economic value. The EU estimates to create a EUR 32bn market for public data with their new Open Data Strategy.
Todd Park has a recipe for creating this market. "Market the hell out of those data". You can't stop at making them available, you have to spread the word. A lot of innovative ideas for products and services will come from entrepreneurs and developers that may not even know these data exist. The data have to be so easily accessible and well-promoted that the data find the user rather than the other way around.
So here's the key message:
- Open your data
- Make them easy to work with (ideally as linked open data: machine readable, non-proprietary formats, RDF standards, linked RDF)
- Make sure that everyone knows they are available
That's how governments can create real value with data.