The Commercial Opportunities in Open Data
Last week I attended O’Reilly’s Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington, DC. All in all a pretty good event (few organizers run conferences as smoothly as UBM/O’Reilly).
For obvious reasons I was there mainly to get the heads up on any Open Data efforts that I might not know about yet and to meet with like-minded people from all over the world.
Not surprisingly, the attendees were largely from the public sector, but there were also several suppliers and a few start-up companies that are working in this space – signs that the private sector is starting to realize that something big is about to happen here.
In one of the better sessions, Clay Johnson from the Sunlight Foundation talked about Truly Open Data. During Q&A there were several questions about how the private sector could be a part of the whole Open Data thing. Where the commercial opportunities were?
In the discussion that followed, the theme – and in fact this was the gist I got from most of the private sector people I met there – was that the opportunities somehow lie in assisting the public sector in opening their data. To be a supplier or consultant to government agencies, municipalities and other public entities as they open their data.
Sure, there will be projects. Sure, there is room for some new products to facilitate that. But I think this is really missing the point.
The real opportunity
The revolution here is that an enormous amount of valuable data is becoming easily and freely available all over the world. Some of this data has never been made public before and certainly not this accessible. In gathering this data lie thousands – no – probably hundreds of thousands of man-years, whose output has until now only been used to a fraction of its potential. Imagine the value in all that work, in all that data!
And this data has real, practical, monetary value to virtually every business, household and individual. But only a tiny fraction of them know that yet.
The real commercial opportunity in Open Data lies in helping people discover all this data, see its potential and realize how they can make use of it to run their businesses better, make better decisions and identify new opportunities.