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Value Equations For Open Data

JunarDiego May, CEO and co-founder of Junar, gives a quick dissection of the value equation for open data.  As we sort through ways to make open data sustainable to produce and sustainable as a business driver, things can quickly become complex. But, no matter how complex the technologies or the process of deploying new data sets, there’s no avoiding the simple questions:  “Who values the data?” and “Who’s willing to pay for it?”

I’ve been working on Open Data for about five years, ever since Junar’s co-founder and I saw the opportunity presented by the fact that it was pretty easy to publish content (text, images, videos, etc.) but very difficult for individuals and organizations to publish TABULAR DATA in a usable format.

Interestingly enough, while it took some time for the web to identify business models for free content, in contrast DATA has always been well-monetized, as demonstrated by Bloomberg, CapitallQ and Thomson Reuters as well as Trulia and others that uncover-curate-package-sell Open Data.

Who finds value in Open Data? How can Open Data be used?

Open Data can be used by very different stakeholders in diverse ways. Some examples:

  • Citizens who want to be informed of what is going on where they live and Journalists who need data for their investigative news reporting.
  • Businesses, NGOs, associations and other organizations that need to complement their internally-generated data with ecosystem data for their decision-making processes.
  •  Product companies leveraging Big Data and Open Data to make their products more current and “live” by dynamically incorporating Open Data.
  •  Scientists and academia in general that need data to feed into their research to make it better, always current, and more relevant and insightful.

In order for data to be of value it has to be published in such a way that it can be found, understanding what it means can’t require a PhD, once found it can be used, and as it is being used it can evolve into high value-added content for end users.

Now, if there are individuals and organizations that see value in quality Open Data, how can this become sustainable? Which business models will co-exist in Open Data Publishing?

Some of the models that should sustain Open Data are the following:

  • Taxpayer funding. A lot of the valuable data generated by local, state and federal governments and other public agencies is funded by taxpayers. Such data is already available, and with proper privacy and security can be opened up.
  •  Foundation and benefactor funding. Data philanthropists will continue pushing NGO grantees to open valuable data they generate. Well-funded multilaterals and grantees are embracing Open Data when they really want to solve important problems.
  •  Pay for data. Many organizations are already accustomed to paying for well-packaged data they can use.
  •  Pay for systemic access to data. Data feeds that systemically update valuable data via APIs can feed databases, big data clusters, and apps. Monetization of data is a proven industry.
  • Advertising. Yes, finally advertising. While no one in Open Data is enthusiastic about this business model, it does enable opening up valuable data on the web.

Different sectors are adopting Open Data at different speeds and for different reasons, with varying incentives and diverse funding sources and priorities. As we move forward these sectors will keep finding ways to incorporate Open Data and to open up some of the data they have to monetize it.

What do you think?
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