As I said earlier, today:
Open data is the electricity of the 21st century.
How do I come to this conclusion, you ask?
Well, imagine for a moment all the electricity on earth would be switched off; as an aside: this is unfortunately not an entirely theoretical thing (cf. EMP). What would happen? No, I’m not talking about that you’ll likely miss your favourite TV show. There are serious consequences to be expected, such as people suffering in hospitals, planes crashing, essentially causing our civilisation grinding to a halt. Now, I hope you can acknowledge the pervasiveness of electricity and our dependency thereof.
But how does this relate to open data?
Both electricity and open data share a couple of features:
- You need an infrastructure (generation, distribution, etc.) to be able to benefit from it.
- On its own it’s pretty useless. You need ‘applications’ to exploit it.
- You notice it only as soon as it is not available (anymore).
Concerning electricity, a lot of people had numerous ideas how to utilise it (long before it reached wide adoption) and had to overcome serious obstacles and there were existential fights about deployment and which technologies to use (read more in The Story of Electricity by John Munro).
Now, just like electricity, open data is about to become ubiquitous these days. Be it governments or private entities that, for example, seek to optimise their Web presence. And there are and will be discussions about how to best expose the data (on the Web).
Note that I’m not trying to advocate that all data on earth should be open to everyone. This is maybe the biggest difference to electricity. There are cases (and let’s be honest, quite a few) where the privacy, concerning a person or an organisation, must take precedence over the ‘openness’ of the data. But let this be no excuse to not publish your data on the Web, if there are no privacy concerns.
All that is missing now are applications, on a large scale, that utilise the open data. Think about it, the next time you switch on your TV or use your oven to prepare a meal for the ones you love ;)