Open data has been described by Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the www protocol) as the new frontier of the Internet. We find ourselves today in respect to open data in a similar situation to the one we faced 26 years ago when the world wide web protocol was released. Something big had just started but no one yet knew how big it was going to be.
The open data movement started in the US in conjunction with the Open Gov initiatives which triggered a rising number of Freedom of Information requests. Since data collected by local and central government is public, it belongs to everyone and, as such, should be accessible by everyone. What started as a way to tackle the costs of middle man management of FOI requests eventually provided the fertile soil for civic engagement to grow in the digital age. Civic hacking, crowd sourced social movements and neighbourhood sharing economy all emerged from the availability of public data on transport, crime, health, licences and tax. The Open Government movement also allowed for a global community of software developers to organise informal networks of collaboration and to develop a new series of app products. All Open Gov apps share the fundamental value of improving efficiency by increasing transparency.
The mantra of ‘efficiency by transparency’ has eventually reached the ears of private sectors innovators, particularly IT and business consultancy firms. Companies like Accenture, Amazon or IBM (visit www.opendata500.com) have first realised the benefit in managing open data and releasing some of their own data.
- Why would a consultant share their private information with their competitors?
- How would the mantra ‘efficiency by transparency’ supersede the very nature of a competitive market?
- If knowledge is power, how can power be increased as a result of knowledge sharing Exactly, welcome to the future.
A digitally empowered global market gets so rapidly saturated with under cost competition that competing on cost is simply obsolete. Companies have not only to create completely new products but also to design a market niche affiliation and exclusive relationship with prospect. Online marketplaces have the power to transform buyers into community members and once a community is formed there is no point creating a cheaper one. In a world where the rules of competition are changing how is transparency going to help winning business? The answer is influence. We have ben taught that knowledge is power but what is also true is that knowledge comes from the managed loss of data privacy, which is shared information. Shared information is influence, influence is power. Once information is shared, your business becomes more transparent and attracts the attention of the market, buyers and competitors alike. Once your data is released then small, agile, creative software ‘elves’ will use your data to design system solutions. They will do things your companies would have never dreamt of. You release your data and hundreds of thousands of software developers, graphic designers and data scientists will make use of your data. You release your data and you get free R&D.
We believe that the UK construction industry has historically suffered from lack of transparency, excess of fragmentation and absence of cross industry values. We thought that open data could have been good for construction, but we had not idea of the scale of change that could be unlocked by embracing open data across the built environment. This is what we have learnt during the course of our research project.
Imagine an industry where evidence is available for anyone to link together good public space and decrease in knife crime.
Imagine an industry where evidence is available for everyone to engage with local communities so that residents can be looked at by developers as an asset and not as a costly risk.
Imagine an industry where evidence is available for anyone to understand the benefit of sustainable growth from an economic, social and environmental point of view.
You may say I am a dreamer. But I am not the only one. The open data movement is delivering growth as we speak.
Big data is already so big (and fast) to stretch the computational capacity of servers and creative skills of humans. Data has no value in itself, it is what you make with it. We are still in the early days of this quiet revolution and we need to empower as many people and businesses in our industry as possible with the skills required to harness the benefit of change. This is why, funded by BRE Trust, BRE, G4C and Marcel Mauer delivered the Open Data in Construction Project.