Value of Public Data

It’s long been known that the US Census Bureau’s TIGER dataset bootstrapped the booming US geospatial industry. Many other countries haven’t had free access to their public data, and this has correspondingly retarded their local geospatial industries. There was a fascinating article in The Guardian about the value of public data, containing this great line: The government’s chief adviser on the subject has told ministers that the archive could be worth hundreds of billions of pounds to the national economy, rather than hundreds of millions previously estimated.

We’ve been watching and working with Carl Malamud, Larry Lessig, and projects like as they fight to free public information that’s senselessly behind paywalls. We’ve felt for a long time that efficient markets require ubiquitous information and it’s good to have respectable institutions (unlike we scurrilous Internet companies who obviously just want to push our hippy agendas or our own businesses) like the British Government beginning to realize that opening public data creates large amounts of private and public value.

We’re only at the start of opening public data. The British Government is still to take substantial action to open public data—significantly, the Ordnance Survey still have their clammy greedy fingers on the public geospatial data. There will be dozens (hundreds) of exciting business built when this and other public data are opened, delivering value that wasn’t possible from the closed data.