Withdrawing the claws from data: a new year's proposal for the private and development sectors

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Now, here's a mash-up that got me really excited. Mapecos provides information on the environmental performance of more than 20,000 industrial facilities across the US. Interestingly, government data on toxic pollution for each facility are displayed side by side with the data provided by the facilities' managers themselves.

PR vs. reality, the malignant might say. The site, however, is designed to move beyond finger-pointing "to provide an even handed view of industrial environmental performance": a "natural experiment" with increasing access to information, as one of its founders put it.

Creating incentives to publish "hidden data" and combining data sets from different sources - it is this type of "natural experiments" that the development (and private) sector needs more of to increase transparency and citizens' empowerment.

Whether through crowdsourcing, social data visualization, or the integration of RSS feeds, open standards and web 2.0 leave no excuse for development organizations to jealously (or lazily) hang on to their data, lest their commitment to public good is seriously questioned.

In the Development 2.0 world, there is no room for the "not invented here" syndrome. As a recent HBS study noted – and Mapecos proves – leading innovators in the private sector have realized that there is no more point in "protecting their intellectual property like lions defending their pride."

Is the development world ready to withdraw its claws?

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