Measuring the Open Data Economy

A new ebook by Dinand Tinholt of Capgemini Consulting called The Open Data Economy: Unlocking Economic Value by Opening Government and Public Data attempts to measure the return of investment behind open data initiatives.

In Tinholt’s view, “political support, breadth and refresh rate of data released, the ease in sourcing data and participation from user community determine the degree of maturity of an Open Data program.” Using these metrics, Tinholt categorized countries with Open Data initiatives as Beginners, Followers or Trend Setters.

The central insight Tinholt gains in the project maturity section of the book is:

“These findings reflect that a strong political will/vision in itself does not guarantee the success of Open Data initiatives. It is important that this vision be adequately complemented with efforts towards sharing quality data with users, ensuring its increased uptake and an active participation from the user community. A coherent approach towards achieving these objectives is essential, in order to realize maximum benefits from Open Data initiatives.”

The Open Data Economy is just one example of recent efforts to provide more objective, quantifiable research on Open Data and Open Government more generally, including those attempts by  Deloitte, Forrester and McKinsey (see Alex Howard’s overview of some of the research)

The Open Data Research Network, for example, recently announced its “Exploring the Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries” (ODDC) project. However, unlike ODDC, Tinholt’s ebook is more strictly focused on the best practices and challenges of Open Data related to their effect on the economic activity of the host country, with less emphasis on concerns like government transparency and accountability—concerns that will presumably play a greater role in the ODDC research.

After categorizing the project maturity levels of different countries with Open Data initiatives, Tinholt uses case studies to examine the thesis:

“In today’s challenging economic times, Open Data can act as a significant aid to Government efforts at creating jobs. And at the same time, it can complement the efforts of the private sector to boost the skill set of the hiring pool.”

With outcomes like the estimated €140 billion of annual economic activity generated by Open Data projects in the EU27 economy in mind, Tinholt comes to the following conclusion:

“In summary, opening up data holds the key to unlocking economic gains from multiple perspectives. Governments and public authorities need to view Open Data not just as an opportunity to bring in transparency and accountability in their functioning, but also as an enabler of innovation. In these challenging times, it offers the opportunity to drive tangible economic value and stimulate growth and innovation. Governments wishing to establish their position in tomorrow’s digital world should leverage the potential that Open Data holds.”

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