Access is the big topic when people discuss ICT on this blog. The digital divide is still the biggest obstacle for using ICT in development effectively. The access issue has more than one side: It's not only about access to the technology, it's also about access to content that feeds into the technology.
A while ago the World Bank hosted an event on open source technologies in disaster response. There was quite some twittering about this event, and several tweets were concerned with the availability and accessibility of data. Open source relies on people investing their expertise and time into building applications, and many of those applications need current data to be useful at all. Think of Open Street Map, a database of geographical data that feeds into maps of every place on this earth. Imagine relief workers using those maps to get help into a disaster zone. Now imagine that truck with engineers and doctors on board running smack into a river because that bridge on the map is just not where it's supposed to be. Open Street Map needs a current flow of data, highly technical data actually, that people - usually technical experts themselves - can upload into the database. Science Commons is another example. This is a project that, among other things, builds open source platforms for knowledge and data management. Considering the limited resources of scientists in developing countries, wouldn't it make a lot of sense to make research results available on an open source platform so that the groundbreaking findings from well endowed University West benefit the struggling researchers at University South?
If you're working in a large organization, think about the huge mountain of data and knowledge on all kinds of things you are sitting on. How much of this data and knowledge do you think could help people working on the ground getting help to the people that need it? Of course, there are many good reasons for not making data available. Privacy is one, security another, or you don't want it to be used commercially (there are copyright forms that could take care of that). So put aside the stuff that you really can't publicize. How much is left? And how much of what's left could make a substantial change in development?
So - why are you sitting on it?
Picture credit: Flickr user Gideon Burton