Open data has the potential to provide easier access to important data for everyone. This means that most people, preferably all, need to publish data. This will have a net positive effect for everyone and, in the long run, strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness.
The term “open data” means different things to different people. Generally speaking, it has a positive connotation. Indeed, several features of the use of open data have wider positive implications. These include not only real benefits for individual users, but also positive consequences for many, often society as a whole.
Open data is an example of where there is no trade-off between benefits to the individual and benefits to the public.
For starters, what is open data?
Open data is information that is readily available to all, with permission to freely re-use it. There must also be information about the type of data it contains, so-called metadata. Furthermore, there must be a guarantee that the available data will be updated appropriately.
So, the idea of open data includes a promise of both being up to date and of having a certain quality-standard, which minimises the potential risks for those who consume it. People should be able to trust that the solutions they are building on the basis of open data will not be ineffective.
More specifically, what kind of information can be published as open data and what can it be used for? Here are two examples:
- Bills for purchases made in the public sector. If such information is readily available, supervisory institutions, journalists and even the individual citizen can check how public purchases are made. This reduces the risk of, say, very expensive socks in the health sector.
- Information on nature and the environment that is made available in a coordinated and simple way. This would make it easier to determine the actual state of the environment. At present, this information is scattered among a large number of authorities and municipalities, making it difficult to analyse.
There are countless examples. Currently, it is mostly data from the public sector, but in theory, any source is conceivable.
What is needed to realise open data’s potential?
In addition to standardisation and technological solutions, it is mainly a question of changing attitudes. Instead of focusing only on how to get data for your own use, you should ask yourself how you could publish your own open data in a simple and standardised way.
If everyone does this, obtaining data will be easier for everyone, resulting in an overall reduction in the total amount of work required. It is that simple.
In the long run, it is about Sweden’s competitiveness. Newly published open data provides the basis for new products and services. These services are created close to those who publish. As Sweden is currently lagging behind internationally, it is a worrying sign that we may be missing opportunities for new development, and consequently new business opportunities, in field of open data.