Open Data – How Can Your Business Profit From It?

Open data — freely accessible and reusable public information — is popular in many settings. Why and how could you benefit from it in your company?

First, it must be clarified that for data to be classified as open, it has to meet a number of criteria, including free access and redistribution, absence of technical restrictions, integration and non-discrimination of persons and areas of use.

Why would this data be open? “The idea of structured datasets made available to the public under free licenses and in free and open formats is to increase their visibility, reuse, quality and growth with other datasets, in order to produce knowledge,” explains Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote, president of the Facil organization, which works to develop the use of free software in the public service. Cases for reuse can be individual or institutional, non-profit or for-profit, the entrepreneur says.

Open data is growing rapidly, due in part to the importance placed today on the transparency of organizations. They are often produced by governments, public bodies or companies in the IT field. But beyond the ethical aspect that they represent for certain domains, “open data” also provides some interesting business opportunities.

Opening your business to data

According to the Government of Canada’s website, decentralizing data offers several benefits. These include support for innovation, for example, “in the private sector, by reducing repetition and favouring the reuse of existing resources.”

 Several fields particularly benefit from open data, Mr. Gauthier-Pilote says. He cites companies who use big data for research or for industrial and commercial applications (including valuable learning data useful for artificial intelligence) or the technology branch that wants to produce applications, services and data with very high added value.

The site agileDSS cites the fields of transport and energy as good examples in which open data can be useful. “With the use of public data on traffic congestion, bus and train locations, optimizing transport routes and time is greatly facilitated,” it says.

If a company wants to make use of open data, it must “build internal expertise in data science, computing, and data management and governance. Free software is generally the preferred tool for professionals who specialize in these fields,” concludes Mr. Gauthier-Pilote.

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