Open Data, Open Information

In the last three years there has been an impressive growth of the Open Data movements. Not only public administrations but also private companies decided to release important data without any copyright restriction: even some scientific institutions shared free datasets.

The number of public datasets is highly increased in last few years and there are different types of data: ZIP codes, public expense reports, crime data, health service data, transport timetable, … This is possible due to community of developers, researchers, and journalists who are trying to convince governments and local administrations to release their data.

In 2009 US and UK governments open their websites: data.gov and data.gov.uk (strongly wanted by  WEB inventor Tim Berners-Lee): most recently also other governments like Italy and France open their open data websites: data.gov.it and data.gov.fr.

Open Data is a deep innovation for different reasons. The most important aspect is the increasing of institutions transparency: free online access to public information assures a better transparency of public administrations actions. Another significant feature is the possibility to develop new business based on the creation of innovative services: transforming open data into easy accessible information is an open business.

There are some useful and successful services or apps for everybody. For example “Spotlight on spend” is about public expense, “Fix my street” helps citizens to report local problems about streets, “Spot Crime” displays crimes next to an address, or “School-o-Scope” turns official government data about schools.

The first italian product for ideas and applications based on open data is Apps4Italy: it was developed with the purpose of increase this new business and it had a quite good success.

Italy is beginning to release some open data. The regions of Piemonte and Emilia Romagna, the city of Firenze (also thanks to Wikitalia) are the most active local adminstrations; but not every local administration joins open data project.

But it is very important to have the possibility to compare data from different places, both national and international, for a better benefit.

David Eavans, advisor for open data in public administrations and companies, says that only the comparison of different cities, administrations or countries can give us a real benefit. If only a single city opens its data, it will be irrelevant to change the whole system; but if 100 cities join the project, there will be a real changing.

Moreover Eavans states that if the open data community wants to grow in the future, it is necessary the presence of big companies (such as Google, Microsoft, SAS and the Red Cross) in this project.

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