Gavin Starks, the recently appointed CEO of the Open Data Institute, has shared his insights on how to make open data more accessible. He writes, “‘Data as culture’ is a phrase new to many, but its roots will be familiar. We live in an age of data-driven decision-making: decisions that impact every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s the prime minister reviewing data about our economic growth, or your sister checking your FourSquare check-ins, data is ubiquitous and pervasive. Since the early days of the internet, and the web, we have seen more data becoming available. Mobile phones, smart meters and sensors, store cards, and social media are all generating data that simply didn’t exist before. This is in addition to the huge amounts of information that already exists; health records, transport routes, maps, spending information, are now all digital – but rarely accessible.”

He continues, “Open data does not mean ‘all data’, or that it’s a free-for-all. For example, your personal health data is extremely private. There are benefits to access: for example aggregated anonymous statistical analysis can help us make better decisions. There are also risks – we know that companies, governments, and individuals are not always well equipped to handle information in the most appropriate ways. We also face challenges of transparency. We need to be clear on whose data we are using and how it is being used: ‘provenance’ or ‘traceability’ needs to form part of our data literacy. If a minister is making a data-driven decision about our economy, I’d certainly like to know their sources.”

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Image: Courtesy ODI