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Open data for sustainability

Big data has been identified by experts as one of the top 10 technological trends that will be strategic for most organizations. Yet, there are significant differences between “open data” and “big data.”

Companies capture big data and primarily restrict this vast resource to identify trends or enhance proprietary data sets. Big data is transitioning from use in individual projects to influencing enterprise strategy. Data for business intelligence, innovation, predictive data analysis and algorithmic moderation on social networking are capturing opportunities and reducing risks.

“Open data” include data sets that are made accessible in non-proprietary formats without license or restriction. Third parties are able to innovate with the data and theoretically citizens can use it to hold parties accountable.

Gartner research cites that although big data makes organizations smarter, open data holds more opportunity for increasing revenue and value. The competitive advantage is gained through the direct interactions with customers, partners and suppliers. The consultative interaction of open data improves transparency, builds trust, while generating revenue by monetizing information assets.

Open data bases in Colorado are providing a wealth of information that is not only beneficial for citizen engagement with government but can also be used in academic research, consumer applications, and for business opportunities.
Open data initiatives Open Colorado and Data Colorado are active and growing. These platforms provide free public access to large-scaled complex data in formats that are easy to use by non-technical administrators. Data providers are encouraged to publish and better promote their public data sets. Data consumers can query and catalog to source data for applications and interactive APIs.

A broader global effort called the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral initiative that aims to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, harness new technologies and strengthen governance with multi-stakeholder collaboration. The OGP launched in September 2011 with 8 founding governments including the UK, USA, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, and South Africa. Participation has since expanded to include 64 countries.

OGP countries commit to an action plan developed with public consultation. Commitments are structured around the following five pre-defined “grand challenges."
1. Improving Public Services: the full spectrum of citizen services including health, education, criminal justice, water, electricity, telecommunications and any other relevant service areas, by fostering public service improvement or private sector innovation
2. Increasing Public Integrity: corruption and public ethics, access to information, campaign finance reform, media and civil society freedom
3. More Effectively Managing Public Resources: budgets, procurement, natural resources and foreign assistance
4. Creating Safer Communities: public safety, the security sector, disaster and crisis response, environmental threats
5. Increasing Corporate Accountability: corporate responsibility on issues such as environment, anti-corruption, consumer protection and community engagement

Both the macro and micro business environment have experienced rapid change over the past two decades. Technological advancements, international trade agreements, dynamic economic and political change, consumer empowerment, and climate change focus are transforming the global business arena.

As businesses rush in to capture the untapped opportunity of big data and open data, new rules and conflicting public and governmental expectations are greeting them. There are unforeseen risks associated with the staggering volume of information in digital form now available to business. Questions regarding personal data ownership, privacy and value distribution in a regulatory patchwork is not at pace with technology.

Citizens, governments and businesses are increasingly inter-dependent.

Sustainable business are adapting to both capture big data and leverage open data. But there may well be a greater opportunity from open data. It offers the capacity to measure, track and collaborate with consideration for environmental and social impacts. And such content could be utilized for the sustainable evolution of our systems to balance the complex needs and demands for future generations.