Open Data Drives Us Towards The Information Chasm

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We are at a tipping point in terms of information.

Not just information technology, you understand — but information itself. There’s an information chasm ahead and it’s hard to assess just how wide it is and how easily we will be able to cross it. But cross it we will.

A good degree if this information vortex is being fuelled by the rise of so-called open data. As a logically congruent extension to the drive for open source, open data is starting to impact the way firms are addressing information from very first principles.

As community editor Helen Beckett has already stated, “Open data is cited as an instrument for breaking down information gaps across industries and letting companies share benchmarks and best practices that raise productivity. Similarly, it enables an increase in business activity by creating new firms, products and services.”

There are caveats here, of course there are. The ubiquitous perfect world of open information exchange across all industries is neither realistic, practical or possible in the medium to short term — but as long term game goal, it still needs to be stated.

Openness before it’s time?

If anything, open data is almost before its time. That is to say, open source at a deeper technical level has only recently enjoyed truly widespread acceptance.

Some would argue that the true recognition point of open source from the otherwise more ‘commercially selfish’ world of proprietary software has only been seen inside this current decade.

Inside this decade we have seen Oracle acquire Sun Microsystems and take on stewardship of the Java language and platform. Microsoft has open sourced its .NET software development framework and vendors of every shape have been lining up to pledge allegiance to the Linux operating system. Oh — and Google’s Android mobile operating system also became quite popular, in case you hadn’t noticed.

If anything, open data is pushing even faster and further.

Open data drivers like the Open Definition to tell us that, “Open [data and content] means anyone can freely access, use, modify and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).”

We need to talk

Whatever your take on open data, it’s important to realise that these are still comparatively early formative days.

We are still discussing open access channels and how information should be exchanged. We are still discussing permissions, licenses and the laws that should govern redistribution, compilation and separation of work — although specific statements have already been made on these areas.

Open data itself stems from initiatives seen in government and major business. Its aims include concerted efforts to move us towards an openness that tackles corruption and fraudulent activity throughout international big business. But given that open data champions the opening of design in all products and services throughout every level of the commercial world, there is much scope for smaller businesses to feel its effects.

The open data information chasm is ahead of us, get ready for the crossing, but don’t jump in immediately unless you know you have a place to land.

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Adrian BridgwaterAdrian BridgwaterAdrian Bridgwater is a freelance technology journalist with a specialist focus on the development and management of enterprise software applications and services.  He has spent the last twenty years in a variety of technology-focused media roles and as such is fully conversant with the wider technology market at large.