There’s a bit of a revolution going under most people’s noses and it is probably something most people won’t think about even if we need this revolution whether we realize it or not. And at the same time people contribute to this revolution even if they don’t know about it. It’s a good thing – it makes us understand our world better, helps to build better tools and products that hopefully make our lives easier, and eventually gives us the power to make better decisions and helps governments to serve us better.
Coined in the 90s, the “information superhighway” is all about the flow of information and communication through digital channels. On this highway there’s plenty of lanes to drive on, from normal, fast, to car-pool lanes. Open data or knowledge is the car-pool kind. And this growing interest and need for openly accessible information and data is the revolution.
The Open Knowledge Foundation has a standard definition on what is Open Data:
Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.
With more and more information, this asset becomes something that we can trade, market, and sell – some like to call this the “information economy“. Just think about how your profile on Google or Facebook can actually help advertisers and companies to better understand your habits. In “Who Wins in the Battle for Power on the Internet?“, the author takes a dark look at the power of cyberspace and the internet and makes a convincing argument as to being a situation of “you’re against us or you’re with us”.
We’re at the beginning of some critical debates about the future of the Internet: the proper role of law enforcement, the character of ubiquitous surveillance, the collection and retention of our entire life’s history, how automatic algorithms should judge us, government control over the Internet, cyberwar rules of engagement, national sovereignty on the Internet, limitations on the power of corporations over our data, the ramifications of information consumerism, and so on.
While most people won’t like this kind of intrusion, the fact that our digital footprint can be measured, monitored and tracked isn’t such a bad thing. Don’t forget, it’s not just about people, but this information also relates to how companies, governments, and organizations do business which can help you or me understand better our choices and decisions that actually have an impact on them. I’d like to think that there’s some positive aspects of embracing the challenges of data and information (overload?) and how we can make use of this to make the world better. Ultimately, it’s people who will push the boundaries of how data can be used for good or evil… and the Open Knowledge Foundation is a community that’s been pushing for this “good” revolution.
It’s going to be an interesting future as more and more data and information can and will help us make better decisions. In September I attended my first Open Knowledge Conference and found the discussions fascinating, the challenges complex, and the potential inspiring. It was also a great way to connect, meet people with similar interest, and just get excited by all the ideas and creativity.
My focus for the meeting was seeing where the discussion led in terms of understanding our risk to disasters and wrote an article for work about it called: “Open data makes disaster risks visible
“. While risk information is definitely growing, there’s plenty of other places that have already matured in how data can be used to understand patterns, inform the way we work and do business, and hopefully provides us with insight into how we can evolve, plan, and make societies and systems better. For example, there was an exhibition by Schema Designs that showcased traffic patterns over the course of a day in Geneva, Zurich and San Francisco and highlighting the frequency and intensity of public transit use throughout the day…