Even if you’re not familiar with the term open data, you’ve likely used some of these data sets. Media available under Creative Commons fall into this category, and 84% of Americans who use Smartphones use apps that rely on open datasets.

Open data refers to datasets that are accessible to anyone and available as a whole. Governments usually create these datasets and make them available via different systems.

Making large datasets available to everyone could be a game changer for SMBs.

Why does open data matter?

Image courtesy of digitalgov.gov

Open data is a valuable resource. It has the potential to become a real infrastructure for businesses as more governments and organizations take part in compiling and sharing datasets.

Open data could be a game changer for midmarket businesses because it is making huge datasets – sometimes with a very narrow industry focus – available to anyone. Without involvement from governments and organizations, this type of dataset would require resources that only larger companies can afford.

It is worth noting that open data is closely linked to the development of open Application Program Interfaces (APIs). These APIs are a vehicle through which open data can be easily accessed.

How are businesses using open data?

Businesses of all sizes rely on open data. Spotify uses a huge dataset compiled by MusicBrainz to display information about the songs users stream.

There are many other examples of businesses using open data.

  • Some moving companies use datasets on population movements to determine in which areas they should advertise.
  • Online real estate listings services incorporate information from government datasets so you can filter results by crime rate and other factors.
  • When shopping for a car, open datasets allow you to research the history of a used vehicle online.
  • Several websites rely on open data to let you search for a health care provider who accepts your insurance.
  • Some financial companies are using datasets shared by the SEC and the government to make investment recommendations.

Known issues with open data

Open data is still in its infancy stage, and many businesses are successfully using these datasets. However, there are also some issues you should be aware of:

  • Some datasets can be too big. Figuring out which information is relevant and how to use it takes time.
  • Not all midmarket organizations have the resources and know how to search through this data, extract what is relevant and find a practical use.
  • Privacy can be an issue since some datasets include personal information.
  • There is no guarantee that a dataset will be indefinitely available.
  • Some datasets might be biased, contain mistakes, or give an incomplete picture.

Now is the time to find out more about open data and to think about becoming an early adopter. It is very likely that open data will become a valuable infrastructure for businesses and consumers since everyone can benefit from it.

Get started with open data

Are you interested in finding datasets relevant to your industry, or do you just want to find out more about open data?

Check out the Open Data Institute website: https://theodi.org/

Take a look at the datasets compiled by the US government: https://catalog.data.gov/dataset

And find more industry-specific datasets here: http://opendatatoolkit.worldbank.org/en/essentials.html