Open Data

LIFT 2012, Geneva

Rufus Pollock @rufuspollock[.org] – @okfn[.org]

Licensed under cc-by v3.0 (any jurisdiction)

Open Knowledge Foundation Shuttleworth Foundation

The Open Knowledge Foundation

Open Knowledge Foundation

Community-based not-for-profit founded in 2004

We have projects and collaborations around the world and are especially active in Europe

Open Knowledge Foundation

We build tools and communities to create, use and share open knowledge - content and data that everyone can use, share and build on.


Sumer, Mesopotamia, 5000 years ago


The UK Census (1801)


The Hollerith Tabulator (US 1890 Census)


An IBM (1960s)

Today We Find Ourselves in the Midst of a Revolution

Driven by
Info Complexity [Necessity]
Info Tech [Opportunity]

We are Innovating
Opening Up

Government is Opening up Data

Open Gov Initiatives Around the World. 3y ago ~ 0. Now UK, US, Finland, Kenya, Netherlands, ...

Companies are Opening up Data

Like Nike, who are opening up supply chain and sustainability data

Communities are Opening Up Data

Like OpenStreetMap who have a built a map of the world from the bottom up

Open Data: What is It?

What does Open Mean?

Open Data button

"A piece of data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse and redistribute it - subject only, at most, to a requirement to attribute or share-alike."

Anyone means Anyone!
(So no restrictions on commercial use etc)

What Kind of Data?

Transport, Geodata, Statistics, Electoral-Legal ...

Key point: Non-Personal Data!

(E.g. Train times, station locations, spending breakdowns, national laws ...)


A Story

(About Medicine Gone Wrong)

To many eyes all anomalies are noticeable

To many eyes all bugs are shallow

Apps and Services

Where Does My Money Go

But Why Open?

The Challenge
the Opportunity

Challenge: Exploding Info Complexity

In 1820s all UK bank clearing done in a single room in London once a day. Today, billions of transactions a minute.

=> componentization to divide and conquer complexity

Opportunity: Info Technology

Today a smart phone has as much computing power as the system for the Apollo moon landings. 1TB of storage is around $100, in 1994 this would have cost ~ $400,000.

=> Mass participation in information access, processing and production. Decentralization.

Claim: Openness is Key

Open Data button Open Data button

Open Data Scales
(And Closed Data Doesn't!)

Woven Ball Broken Humpty
We're Weaving Data Together To Scale We Need to Componentize But We Need to Put Humpty-Dumpty Together Again - Not Possible if Closed

Information is Special: Non-Rivalrous

Very cheaply copied ~ zero cost

Giving me a 'copy' of your car is a problem, giving me a copy of your data isn't


The Best Thing to do With (Your) Data will be Thought of by Someone Else

(And Vice Versa)

Better Understanding
Better Governance
Better Research
Better Economy

Where We're Going

More (Use)

Especially from Business

More (Data)

Richer (Data)

Quantity Changes Quality

Data "Refining"

Data as Platform not Commodity

You Build on It Rather than Sell It

Faraday's Baby



hollerith-tabulator.gif: (orig from IBM)