OPEN DATA: A Lot of Sparks, So Why No Wildfire Yet?
The concept of “Open Data” has excited and frustrated a lot of people over the years, because it’s one of those things that makes total sense on paper, and therefore “feels” like an idea that will quickly go viral and generate tremendous value. Yet it hasn’t yet, so its supporters are puzzled and reflexively think the solution must be to educate people and to turn up the volume since, both intuitively and intellectually, it already should have caught on like wildfire.
Here’s my two cents on why that hasn’t happened yet; actually it’s more like twenty cents worth of thoughts, so I’ll be writing a series of three blogs (starting with this one) on the reasons I believe we haven’t made more progress to date and how we might do so going forward.
To frame the picture, first let’s treat Open Data like any other startup that has a great idea, and in this case considerable evidence to back it up and many enthusiastic supporters as well. Statistically, the overwhelming majority of such endeavors never take off, not because they offer bad products but because there are numerous alternatives, or their true value hasn’t been explicitly communicated.
I’m quite certain that Open Data will not fail for many reasons, but that does not make it immune from the typical types of growing pains that new ideas need to surmount every day. It is promoting a product that is being marketed to citizens, entrepreneurs, businesses and importantly government consumers. And so it is subject to the same lessons that the business world learns about other products.
I suggest we must recognize and be truthful about several basic concepts in order to effectively develop and successfully realize the value of Open Data.