Open Data Institute hails “network thinking” among winners in 2015 awards

The Open Data Institute says it sees signs of “network thinking” in the open-data programmes and startups it acknowledged in its second set of annual awards.

CEO Gavin Sparks said “companies that go from closed, through shared, to open data will win in the future. This network thinking creates an ecosystem and a value chain”. He cited the example of transport in London, which has benefited travellers with maps and smart phone apps with its “data infrastructure”.

Web inventor Tim Berners Lee, co-founder and figurehead of the ODI, said: “I’d like to see a linking ‘gene’ for open data. Making data available is not rocket science, though it can be hard work politically.

“Linking it up to other people’s data is hard work because it involved reverse engineering other people’s texts, and reference standards.”

Berners Lee and fellow ODI co-founder Nigel Shadbolt gave out the 2015 Open Data Awards at an event in London. It received more than 500 nominations from an international span that included Kenya, Uruguay, Indonesia, and Ukraine.

UK startup OpenCorporates won the “open data business” award for its open database of company information, which has details of 85 million organisations worldwide.

Hera Hussain, OpenCorporates communities and partnerships manager said: “We’re now in sight of 100 million companies, used regularly by journalists, investigators, governments, even banks. This is a testament not just to the power of OpenCorporates, but of open data itself.”

Open data innovation

Greater London Authority won the “open data publisher” award for its London Datastore, which publishes 600 datasets. Its work with Transport For London has opened up transport data now used in hundreds of third-party apps and published the London Schools Atlas.

Andrew Collinge, assistant director at the Greater London Authority, said: “We are entering a new period for open data, where supply will broaden out to include other city data partners like utilities and our power to exploit it will increase significantly.”

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), based in Geneva, won the “open data innovation” award for its facilitation of a “malaria box” of 400 open-source antimalarial compound information, freely available to anyone wishing to develop new drugs in developing countries. Timothy Wells, chief scientific officer at the organisation, said: “We hope this award will catalyse new relationships and partnerships to help us keep transforming the landscape of drug discovery for neglected disease.”

Social impact award winner was BudgIT, which promotes understanding of spending and budgets in the government of Nigeria.

Mo McRoberts, chief technical architect at the BBC, emerged as the “open data individual champion” for leading open data integration at the corporation, while promoting open data policies in the broadcast industry.

Open data, not big data

Reflecting on the awards, Shadbolt said: “we are seeing the evidence now that open data generates services that matter, economic value that counts, makes public services more efficient and government better

“We understand that data is a spectrum. Some will remain proprietary and closed, or personal or cautiously shared.

“But the greater good for information assets is that they are open. Take the human genome: Remember it took a Supreme Court decision and political will to rule that to be open, that it not ought to be patented. Billions in economic value have flowed from that, despite some companies losing money on the Nasdaq in the shorter term.”

Shadbolt stated that, two and a half years into the ODI, it is matching its government funding, “and that’s not always the case with public funded projects”.

“There is more to do, and we are working with hard headed businesses, like Experian, Thomson Reuters, and Bloomberg”.

ODI CEO Sparks commented that open data is a concept that will, with its “network effect”, cause “companies to win”, while “big data is a vendor-driven term.

“We’ve got a new generation now – Generation O – that assume access to everything. That creates a different type of global citizen, and we see this reflected in the startups on the ODI programme.

“OpenCorporates is a great example of a small team that has achieved large-scale impact. They’ve boot strapped on a small amount of money and have hundreds of thousands of people using their services.”

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