First, a disclaimer: This is not an attempt to disparage the open data initiatives taken by enthusiasts and the government. We think its a great start. Some of these government data sets are very rich and useful.
Open Data in governance is a noble concept. But to be really effective, it needs to be real time. To be real time, we need paperless offices and networked industrial control systems. And for some reason, paperless offices remain on paper, forever. Industrial control systems seldom talk to each other, just like the departments that run it.
Open data must be first about relevant data and then making it open.
The recent government initiative to promote open data applications are good, but its promoters must think very hard, for ways to make it timely (and relevant). Commuter applications, travel advisories and weather forecasting are a few examples of how real time data can make a real difference to the common man.
But making real time data available will be a massive challenge in a country like India. Currently, there are more than 3500 data sets on the Government’s open data portal. To be honest, most of it is junk from an app developers point of view. Seriously, not many can think of creative ways to make use of a list of “seminars held at Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development.” Before you take off on a tirade about us being excessively cynical, think about it.
Like examples from private sector shows, real time data can do wonders. Take for instance, the the UBS proprietary satellite parking lot fill rate analysis tool in the United States which looks at Wal-mart parking lots to make trading decisions. Now this is a resource intensive and extreme example. But you get the drift.
If the idea is to democratize government data and make it easier for developers to come up with great apps, it must also make a decent glossary and do away with as many jargons as possible. Simple reason being: app developers may not be domain experts. Of course activities that create common meeting ground for the two are helping, but then, the power of Internet is being vastly underutilized.
» If you are an app developer, come over for bigMobilityConf (scheduled for Aug 31st). Lot more insights on app ecosystem will be shared by Industry bigwigs.