The term Big Data is used almost anywhere these days; from news articles to professional magazines, from tweets to YouTube videos and blog discussions. The term coined by Roger Magoulas from O’Reilly media in 2005, refers to a wide range of large data sets almost impossible to manage and process using traditional data management tools – due to their size, but also their complexity. ‘Open data’ is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. The increasing use of ICT for business, leisure and public services is leading to the accumulation of mountains of structured and in many cases unstructured data. But this so-called ‘big data’ should be seen as an opportunity not a problem. An important part of this ‘big data’ movement is the use for the wider benefit of society of the non-personal information. The research landscape has also moved to accommodate the rapid changes taking place in data collection, processing and handling. Trends like “big data” and the “internet of things” (IoT), including “people as sensors”, are showing how entrepreneurs and innovators can develop new services and apps for the benefit of smart cities. While several organisations are opening up their data to researchers, it might seem ironic that the results of such research might end up inaccessible in expensive journals. The fact is however that there are numerous challenges – legal, technical, social and market related – that need to be faced before the many benefits of open data can be effectively transferred to civil society. Many are of the opinion that governments should not to wait for this to become law. Instead they should give their data away now and generate revenue and jobs, and even save money from the better information and decisions that will flow. Also the private sector must be encouraged to open their data to generate new services. It should become common understanding that open data is a tremendous resource which has yet to be fully tapped.
06 May 2013