Just as the success of free software led to the founding on companies based around that freely-available code, so I think we are about to see a wave of exciting new startups based around freely-available data
I predict that there will also be indirect models. The distinction can be seen in the world of open source, where there are companies like Red Hat that make money from open source directly – selling various kinds of services – and others like Facebook that simply use open source for its operations.
Open data is not only of interest to companies that want to make money from it. Just as open source has become an accepted tool for most businesses today, I predict that more and more of them will routinely draw on the growing bodies of open data for their businesses – after all, given that it’s freely available, they’d be mad not to.
So it should not be surprising that so few companies look like being able to make money out of open data. In fact, there are only a handful who make money out of directly selling or leveraging open source software, but there are many more that thrive by using it.
Application contests and other means to engage application developers to develop citizen-facing apps are of limited value to explore the indirect value of open data. The most obvious beneficiaries of open data are governments themselves, as they become able to look at each other data. Earlier today I had a great conversation with a client from a small German local authority whose only interest in open data was to gather data from other cities for comparison and competition purposes.
Many recognize the internal, less glamorous value of open data, but – as a client put it once – telling people that open government’s primary purpose is to let departments know each other better is not a politically astute value proposition, although it may bethe absolute truth.