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Open data: “We’ve still got a long way to go,” says Berners-Lee

Caroline Baldwin

The open data initiative still has a long way to go until data from around the world will be readily available for anyone to use.

Open data advocate and inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee has said we are still at the beginning of the journey to liberate data.

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“There’s a significant amount of open data available now, but we’ve come such a small way compared to where we’ve got to go,” said Berners-Lee [pictured] speaking at the closing session of the annual Open Government Partnership Summit in London today.

The open data barometer, which he launched at the summit yesterday, demonstrates the status of open data in different areas around the world.

But Berners Lee said there are still huge challenges the world must overcome. He said you have to persuade people who are not excited by the economic value of open data. These people believe open data will hold them accountable if something goes wrong.

“I’m a computer programmer, which means I can do my job, communicate and build value,” he said. “But the exciting piece at the end of the day is economic value.

He points to Transport for London (TfL), which recently announced that for every pound they invested in open data, they received £45 back by analysing how much more efficient London’s transport apps had become.

“Sometime people can measure it, but most of the time you just can’t,” said Berners-Lee. But open data can benefit people in other countries, in other sectors and by combining it with other data sets, which can be a “huge benefit to people you don’t know”.

He also touched on other challenges, including the recent government security scandal of NSA’s PRISM programme, as well as regimes who restrict the internet in some countries across the world.

“Censorship horrors people, but in many cases, spying can be much worse,” he said.

Berners-Lee has been pushing to keep the web open for 24 and half years, but he said “it’s all very well by opening data, but it’s got to go on the web, in an open format so everyone can see it.”


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