Open Data : What is Open Data [Part 1]

When Eric Besson, the Minister of Industry, Energy, and Digital Economy in the Government of France stepped up to the stage at the Open World Forum in Paris and Chris Vein, Deputy CTO in the US Government stepped up to the stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, they both had the similar messages.  We want you, the citizen, to be a part of taking us forward.  Let us make available for you this mountain of data that the government has and let’s see what use you can put it to.  And individuals rose to the challenge building applications that they themselves, a typical citizen, felt the need for.  Open data programming challenges the world over yielded many interesting applications that ranged from finding efficient lines of traffic, the cleanliness certification of local restaurants, contributions and funding given to your district, state, or country by various organizations, and a whole lot more that allowed them to be more informed. ODF_logo_blue_medium

Initiatives such as Open Data encourage private-public partnerships.  As the data is made available on the internet un-bureaucratically, it breaks the red tape that one might otherwise have to deal with.  Many supporters of open data make the rightful claim that such data is collected with public, that is our, money and therefore we rightfully own it too.  But righteousness alone doesn’t serve data; committed governments and broad-minded individuals within it do.

One of the key factors driving this participative thought process arises from various administrational self realizations, the chief two being the realization that government cannot do everything by itself and that fostering innovation would benefit the economy as a whole.  That a country such as India with over a billion people is under-served by government alone is a gross understatement.  This is where such open data could bridge the gap.  And this is also where the entrepreneur-next-door with a double implicit degree in local knowledge and a burning desire to do something for the community is in a uniquely forceful position to make a mark.  It is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to shine.  If the small guy working for himself needs to make an impact, he could benefit from data made available to him at a large scale.  Either with exclusive apps or through incorporating open data into existing apps, the opportunities are many.

Today we are left at the mercy of what is provided to us.  But do we trust the validity of the information thus provided?  Would we rather have the raw data, minus the propaganda, and allow ourselves to draw reasonable conclusions?  Progressive governments are hoping to involve the individual and his or her expertise in ways that the government itself could not create policy.  Today we are unsatisfied with passively receiving second hand notes on what we are supposed to and expected to think.  We, the citizens, want to know the how, the why, and from there decide for ourselves the therefores.  We are unsatisfied with having been told that what we have is the best possible for us and that somebody else has made that decision.  

We want to be involved, we want to decide.  

[The author, Sathish VJ is an independent technology enthusiast with a keen interest in everything technology. He is currently rediscovering the web, mobile, newer programming languages, and businesses around it. You can discover more about him at sathishvj.com.]

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