Thank you for inviting me to speak here today.It's great to hear about Canada's commitment to open data and I'm looking forward to learning more through the day.Today I'm going to talk about using open data strategically.I'm going to talk about why every organisation – government, yes, but also companies, universities, and NGOs – should be thinking about their open data strategy.Because every organisation can benefit from open data.
You're probably aware that this year is the web's 25th anniversary.I find it useful to compare the growing use of open data to the growth of the web.
The first organisations that had websites were university departments.It took time for other kinds of organisations to catch on to what the web could offer them.It took seven years before companies started to realise they should be on the web.We're still learning now how best to use it.I sometimes describe the open data landscape as being like a web where practically the only websites are run by government.That would seem insane, considering the massive advantages that being on the web brings to all sorts of other organisations.But in the open data space, government has been the primary early adopter.Most companies and other organisations don't even realise that they can benefit from publishing open data too.
But companies are starting to realise that they can take advantage of the data that they have.They are starting to think about the data they collect and maintain about their assets and their activities.They are starting to realise the value of analysing the data they have, to inform their decisions.This is essentially what big data is all about: harnessing the power of the data you have within your organisation.
But all that big data processing happens within organisations, within a black box.If I can use the analogy with the web again, it's as if they are only thinking about what their intranet can do.To take full advantage of their data, organisations need to think bigger.They need to think about how they share open data outside their organisation.I'm going to talk about four ways in which thinking about open data can enhance an organisation's data strategy: thinking about reuse, about enhancing your brand, about innovating, and about connecting with others.All four are also relevant to government.In my experience, certainly in the UK, government has focused on publishing open data to make itself look better (enhancing its brand) and to support innovation.It has focused less on how to reuse its own data, or how to use opening up data to communicate better with citizens, with suppliers, and with itself.Let's look at these one at a time.
The data that an organisation seldom makes sense on its own.It needs to be supplemented with data from elsewhere.A really important source of that data is government, particularly for demographic statistics – who people are and what they do – and for geographies – where stuff is.Depending on the focus of an organisation, there might be other relevant data too: about transport, or education, or health, or the environment.But government isn't the only source of open data.There are community sources like OpenStreetMap or like Wikidata.And there is the potential to get data from suppliers or from partners, to supplement what you already know.
If you find data is useful, then you need to make sure you can continue to get hold of it.That means thinking strategically about how you make sure that it continues to be maintained and made available to you.One of the reasons that open data disappears or goes out of date is simply that the publisher doesn't know it's being used.It's very hard to put in effort that towards something that doesn't seem to have an impact.So a really basic way to help sustain the supply of open data is to say thank you for it.Tell publishers that the data they're publishing is useful.Give them quotes that they can put in their annual reports.Show them the applications that you've built.Tell them what else you'd like, so that they focus their efforts on what matters to you.More than that, you can take a more active role in supporting the publication of open data.Just because open data is free doesn't mean you can't pay for it.Offer sponsorship.Or support it with an in-kind commitments: by contributing effort to maintaining the open data, or some of your own data back to a common resource.
An example of a company that contributes back is the Practical Law company, which is now part of Thomson Reuters.Practical Law contributes effort towards the UK's online open legislation database.They get editors to work on the data to bring it up to date, supplementing the government team that works on it.Because they use that data themselves, they benefit from it being well maintained.But because other people are maintaining it too, they don't have to do all the work themselves.
Another example of an organisation contributing back to a common open resource is the BBC.On the BBC Nature pages, they include text from Wikipedia.And they invest in Wikipedia by getting their editors to improve that text, so everyone benefits.
So the first part of an open data strategy is working out what data you want to use, and how to make sure you can get it.
The second part of an open data strategy is to think about your brand.
People value openness.They value information being available to them, even if they don't look at it very much.Just knowing it's there, and they could get hold of it seems to make a difference.So you can enhance your reputation as an organisation by being transparent, about your internal organisation, your activities, your supply chains and so on.Government, particularly in the UK, has become quite skilled at this.For example, they release spending data to demonstrate transparency about where tax payer's money is going.As with any communications and branding exercise, you can choose what data you release to invite comparisons on your own terms.
For example, in the UK we recently had a scandal where horse meat was discovered in products that weren't supposed to contain horse.One of the commitments that the leading supermarket chain Tesco made was to open up data about their supply chain.Whether that actually affects how much horse meat you get is another question.But the goal was to demonstrate that they had nothing to hide, to restore customer's faith and to bolster their image.
Nike is another example, where they counter accusations of using sweat shops by providing data about how their products are made.
So judiciously choosing data to be transparent about can enhance your reputation as an organisation.
The third part of an open data strategy is to for innovation.
Think about where you'd like to see some innovation happening.Are there problems that are proving difficult to solve?Perhaps some external eyes would give a new way of looking at the issue, which you can benefit from.By releasing open data and setting a challenge, someone might have an insight that you can use.Or perhaps you want to offer your customers something new, but don't know what.By opening data, you can encourage other people to build tools which add value to what you offer, or that you can buy and add to your product line.Opening up data is a way of inviting other people to get involved with you.That can bring new energy into companies, particularly big ones.And it can be a way of finding good potential hires who are already interested in what you do.
There are lots of examples of this pattern of inviting innovation, usually in controlled competitions.For example Netflix released a lot of data about people's viewing habits and invited competitors to improve their prediction algorithms.I should say this wasn't altogether successful, but they did get a whole bunch of entries to the competition that improved their offering.
Last year, Telefonica, who are a partner at ODI, released some of their data about mobile phone usage.I asked them what persuaded them to do it, and the reason they gave was innovation.They know that the data is useful, but they don't know all the things that could be done with it.So opening up some of their data helps them identify new areas for potential products.
So the third part of an open data strategy is opening up data to spark innovation that you can benefit from.
The final part of an open data strategy, and one I feel is most neglected, is enhancing connections.
Opening up data is all about communicating with people.It's about providing people with the information that they need to make better decisions.Organisations should open up data to enable other people to make better decisions about how to interact with them.Companies should be informing customers about what to buy from them.They should inform suppliers about what to sell to them.They should make data available easily to partners and to regulators.And for large organisations like governments, opening up data can be the easiest way to make information available within the organisation itself.
Looking at customers first, this is a screenshot of a typical store locator application.I can enter my location and get information about what stores are nearby and what kinds of things I can buy there.I'd love an app that could tell me all my nearby stores of all different supermarkets.I'd love to know which of them had my kids favourite breakfast cereal in stock.Providing open data would help supermarkets get customers, especially new customers who otherwise might not know where they are and what they sell.
On the flip side, open data can help organisations procure services.This is the UK government's contracts finder site.It makes available data about new contracts that are going out for tender.The goal is to make it easier for companies to know about opportunities to sell into government.This especially benefits small companies who might not otherwise know about the opportunities, and small companies cost the government less.So in this case, the goal of opening up data it to help get better suppliers.
As a final reflection on using open data for better communication, think about something Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, did.He dictated that any information that needed to be made available inside the company couldn't be made available by passing spreadsheets around.Instead, if someone wanted data from you, you had to build an API so that they could get it.What's more, you had to design it so that it could be made available externally too.The end result that people talk about was that Amazon got really good at building APIs.But I bet their communication was better too.Instead of asking someone for data, and then having to wait for them to respond, and instead of them being interrupted in what they were trying to do in order to respond to the request, you could just call the API.Instantaneous answer with no overhead.Used strategically, open data can help you to work more efficiently within your organisation, as well as with your customers, your suppliers and your partners.
So that's it, four parts to an open data strategy.I've talked about reusing open data that's out there and ways of guaranteeing its continued supply.I've talked about being open and transparent as a way of enhancing your reputation.I've talked about opening up data to spark innovation that you can benefit from.And I've talked about opening up data to communicate better with your customers, suppliers, partners and yourself as an organisation.Opening up data enables you to get the maximum value from the data you create.Which is why everyone needs an open data strategy.Thank you.
Why Everyone Needs an Open Data Strategy
Why Everyone Needs an Open Data Strategy
Jeni Tennison – @JeniT – Technical Director, ODI
Web 25 logo from W3C and World Wide Web Foundation.
"…early adopters of the World Wide Web were
primarily university-based scientific departments
or physics laboratories…"
"By 1996 it became obvious to most publicly
traded companies that a public Web presence
was no longer optional."
What open data will you
• Government open data
• demographic statistics
• geographic data
• domain-specific data
• From community sources eg
• From suppliers / partners
How will you sustain its supply?
Strategic engagement with publishers
Tell them the data is useful and how you use it
Tell them what else would be useful
Support the publication
• contribute effort / data back
How can openness
enhance your brand?
• People value openness
• even if they don't look
• Provide transparency
• internal organisation
• CSR activities
• supply chains
• Invite comparisons on your terms
Where do you need
• New ways to look at problems
• that you could reuse
• New tools for your customers
• that enhance your product
• that you could buy
• New energy for your organisation
• New potential hires