Featured Examples of the Power of Open Data

A selection of the emerging coverage of various case studies on how open data is being used to create new business opportunities, increase government transparency or change the way drugs are developed:


O’Reilly’s  Alex Howard recently profiled Panjiva, a search engine for products, suppliers and services, to explore how startups are using datasets in creative problem-solving. Using government data to build a platform for international trade, Panjiva helps users map relationships between buyers and suppliers. Panjiva expands on U.S. government data to increase the value of its six-million company database. Organizing shipping data, from U.S. Customs records, and partnering operational and financial data with subjective data provides users with essential insights in selecting international service providers. This has led to a continually growing estimated 188,800, 000,000 dollar value of purchased goods. At its core, Panjiva illustrates the potential of using government data to build business and facilitate growth. In the article, co-founder Josh Green contends the value of data in Panjiva illustrates the potential of “a future where information is consolidated and accessible to people making key decisions, from a buying or regulatory standpoint. Once that happens — and we’re close — there’s potentially a place where there’s a race to the top instead of the bottom, in terms of supply chain records. That will make a difference when you’re under scrutiny. Right now, the fragmentation of data is the ally of bad behavior. Our hope is to change that reality.”

Open Spending

U.K. Cabinet Office Deputy Chief Information Officer Liam Maxwell recently spoke to the Guardian about a collaborative effort run by Data.gov.uk and Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Spending platform  to launch a tool for comparing departmental returns as well as the benefits of participatory budget planning. Open Spending is a community-driven collaborative project for tracking government spending. The international network provides the infrastructure for community members to build tools, applications, and standards that work towards the larger project of opening data for didactic and actionable purposes. The community is populated by public finance experts, data analysts, transparency advocates, and individuals invested in developing new tools to monitor and communicate government budgets and planning. Data wranglers, with the help of statisticians and software developers from OKFN’s School of Data, also work to make the data more usable for journalists. The platform hosts an expanding collection of government datasets for community members to use in the production of guides, reports, books, data visualizations and recently for targeted workshops on creating understandable, efficient budgets.


As part of a celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Creative Commons founding, head of the Consent to Research project and Senior Fellow in Entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation John Wilbanks presented pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’s 2010 decision to publish a set of 13,500 potential drug structures in the fight against malaria as a symbol of the wealth of opportunity in opening data, sharing and science. In his piece he tracked some of the projects that have emerged from the dataset and found while the cure for malaria is still undetermined, the publication of the data marks a change in methodology. The set was supplemented by pertinent pharmacological data and was touted as a potential game-changer of sharing standards in pharmaceuticals. GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty explained the move was part of an effort to increase innovation by removing limitations to tools. Individuals and groups alongside non-profits, continue to work on the projects as the commons become further entrenched as an organizational structure for development.

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