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Open data: is it really worth it?

Sameer Vasta's picture

The launch of Data.gov last week brought back a slew of discussions on open data and the importance of opening up access to data for it to be used in new ways on the web.

One of the conversations that I haven't heard often, however, is about the true value of open data. I was talking to a friend of mine and we asked the question:

If people aren't using the data that's being opened up, is it worth putting the time, money, and resources into opening it up in the first place?

The easy is answer is yes, it is worth it, and I'd agree with that answer in most cases for the sake of organizational transparency and future value for the data. But another question remains: for organizations that don't necessarily have the in-house skills to work on formatting and releasing structured data, what's the incentive in exhausting resources they don't always have in releasing data that may never be used?

While we all consider the Apps for Democracy project a pretty big success, it's worth noting that only a small percentage of the data sets that were released were actually used in creating all the application submissions. What about all the data that hasn't been used? Should it continue to be updated and maintained?

Data storage - old and new by Ian-S on Flickr

They may not seem like the most pressing questions right now, but as we're trying to encourage developers to use the World Bank API in new and innovative ways right now, they are questions that need to be asked.

Again, I'd argue that opening up all types of data, despite use or underuse, is important at its most basic for the sake of organizational transparency. What data creators need to do, however, is work closely with the data users to find out what kind of data they need and want, and what kind of support they need to use the data in exciting ways.

Of course, that's just what I think. Do you see value in releasing structured data? How can we encourage better use of the data that has already been released?

Loooking forward to your input.

(Photo by Ian-S', from Flickr.)

Comments

Submitted by cosmodc on
As far as encouraging better data usage, I think the Apps for Democracy competition model has some advantages. Not only can you draw on the collective talents of developers who care about certain issues, but you can also provide bragging rights and cash - not a bad deal. The challenge may be tapping into communities of data fiends who want to create apps for development.

I do agree that the Apps for Democracy model is a good one. I think we can learn a lot from the Times Open model and the Apps for America models as well. We're working on some neat ideas to encourage data use here at the Bank Web Program Office, and I'll keep you posted as they start to come to life. Thanks!

Submitted by Anonymous on
As far as encouraging better data usage, I think the Apps for Democracy competition model has some advantages. Not only can you draw on the collective talents of developers who care about certain issues, but you can also provide bragging rights and cash - not a bad deal.

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