Data scientist may be the sexiest job of the current century, and everybody in the world may be crying hoarse over the growing shortage of data scientists, but if you are leading an international development project or an international development agency, chances are you don’t have a data scientist on your team and you likely aren’t looking for one. That’s a problem.
Nobody cares about open data. And they shouldn’t. What people care about are jobs, clean air, safety and security, education, health, and the like. And for open data to be relevant and meaningful, it must contribute to what people care about and need.
We wrote a few weeks ago that the private sector is increasingly using open data in ways that are not only commercially viable but also produce measurable social impact. What is missing is financing that can help catalyze the growth of data fueled businesses in emerging economies. We are developing a fund that will address this precise need.
Companies such as Climate Corporation, Opower, Brightscope, Panjiva, Zillow, Digital Data Divide and many others have shown that it’s possible to be disruptive (in established sectors such as agriculture, health and education), innovative (across the data spectrum - from collection to storage to analytics to dissemination), profitable, and socially impactful at the same time (see Climate Corporation’s Ines Kapphan, Metabiota’s Ash Casselman, and the GovLabs@NYU’s Joel Gurin talk about how how open data based companies are tackling complex, sophisticated development problems in high-impact business sectors – their path breaking work is clear evidence of the growing maturity of the industry).
Open data is creating opportunities for governments to work more efficiently and effectively, for citizens to engage with government and take a more active role in communities, for activists to support their advocacy efforts with facts, for entrepreneurs to bring new products and services to market, and for the bulk of us to be able to make everyday decisions.
On the entrepreneurial side, the World Bank's Open Finances team has been exploring the commercial value of open data, and looking for opportunities to support entrepreneurs. These goals are achievable thanks to governments who have fostered innovation around public data by taking the step to open it. What happens when governments haven't yet opened public data? Is it possible for entrepreneurs to take advantage of open data where it does not exist?
How do you take the same data that everybody has access to and convert it into a billion dollar business? When do you look at all the data in the world and say you want more (and that you are going to collect it like no one has done before)? How do you stop worrying about open data, and begin solving development challenges instead? Who is doing what with open data and how and why?
The power of open data to bring together people from different streams of life for civic purposes was on full display around the world on February 22-23, 2014. Washington, D.C. was home to one of the 194 global International Open Data Day events that dotted cities around the world. Data was scraped. Visualizations were made. Code was written. Interfaces were designed. Prototypes were built. Initiatives were born (Here’s looking at you, Code for Nepal!). New friends were made. And a tooth was chipped.
photo credit: @anjelikadeo
Despite the unseasonably warm weather in Washington, D.C., more than 350 civic hackers, development specialists, coders, designers, and enthusiasts participated in two days of Open Data Day hacking and tutorials at the World Bank. Based on an informal poll (raise your hand, please?!) of all attendees at the beginning of the event, nearly two-thirds of the audience had never attended an Open Data Day event before. This was an unexpected but welcome surprise and bodes well for the continued growth of the open data community in Washington, DC.
This post originally appeared on the FeedBack Labs blog.
Feedback is always present. Even silence is not the absence of feedback, but a quiet subtext open for interpretation. In both online and offline communities, the most difficult part is not generating feedback or even collecting it. People typically care about what is happening around them and are often willing to share their sentiments and reflections- sometimes even unable to hold back expression. The advent of writing perhaps marks an innate human desire to share information and to be heard without speaking; “true” silence may actually be quite rare, more a condition of looking and listening in the wrong places or employing a less holistic approach. The graffiti that marks the architecture of repressive regimes past and present is in itself a type of feedback, representing citizen engagement with institutions that refused to officially afford that right or offer practical channels to its citizens. As such, the key challenges that exist with feedback loops are whether or not we are listening, engaging, and actively responding by catalyzing appropriate change.
Usually with a playful smile, it is often said that everything is more fun in the Balkans. History is alive. The region’s dynamic future is still being written and its inhabitants are as interesting and diverse as the intertwined architecture of different styles and cultures.
I had the privilege of delivering a closing keynote sharing early results of an Open Data Demand pilot project (currently open for consultation!) and the World Bank Group’s Open Finances experience at the Community Boost_r TechCamp held in Sarajevo from November 7-8. It was also a great opportunity to get a firsthand taste of what the civic tech scene is like across the Balkans.
The city of Sarajevo played perfect host to this hybrid conference and unconference exploring the role of data, including data for accountability and better coupling of data with technology. There was no shortage of innovation and inspiration among the thriving community of activists, development professionals, technologists, journalists, and do-gooders from every corner of the Balkans brought together by Fundacja TechSoup and Zašto ne (Bosnia & Herzegovina) in partnership with Dokukino (Serbia), and the IPKO Foundation (Kosovo).
हमारी दुनिया आँकड़ों की बढ़ती हुई मात्रा से भरी हुई है, परन्तु संभावित दर्शकों के लिए ये आँकड़े कम उपयोगी होते हैं जिसका सबसे स्वाभाभिक कारण है - आँकड़े उनकी भाषा ही नहीं बोलते हैं।
Our world is awash with increasing amounts of data, but potential audiences for this data remain under-served for the most obvious of reasons - the data just doesn’t speak their language.
This has been true for the data on the World Bank Group Finances website which has only ‘spoken’ English since it was launched. Yes, we should have done this earlier but the website, and its associated open datasets, are now available in 5 new additional languages - Chinese, French, Hindi, Russian, and Spanish . The mobile app has been available for some time in 9 languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Indonesian Bahasa, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish) and the new release of the website is in line with the program’s quest to include new audiences and communities in the use and dissemination of open financial data.
The open data community is chock-full of do-gooders.
There are "open" data-driven applications that track government legislation in the US, tools that help calculate taxi fares in Bogota, Colombia, applications that track how tax payer funds are spent in the UK, the state of school sanitation in Nepal, and many more.
It's clear that innovators are out there and full of terrific ideas about how to help their fellow citizens by harnessing public data. The question is, how can more of these projects follow examples like GovTrack and transition from hobby to successful, sustainable business models? And while there may be technical talent out there, what about entrepreneurial skills? How many data rockstars out there also have the "courage to create a business"?