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[Nordic Techpolitics] If you Love Data... Set Them Free: Lightning Talks on Open Data

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, September 2 2011

Hjlamar Gislason, (picture by Alessio Baù)

Applications don't necessarily provide transparency, data do.” says Pia Josendal, an open data and semantic web enthusiast that works with linked open data.
Her speech is one of a serie a short talks about the importance of open data in society.
During the morning we heard talks about how digital agendas has been implemented in Scandinavian countries: the amount of data and the initiatives are amazing and have proven successful in engaging citizens. But – asks Josendal - what if we want to use that data for a wider scope or for uses that haven't been thought of before?
And, if there are open data out there, why people are not using them?

The discussion includes the importance of visualization: “Numbers drive our world but only with visualization people can fall in love with them” explains Hjalmar Gislason, CEO and founder of Datamarket, a data portal that provides access to statistics and structured data from public and private organizations.
Both Josendal and Gislason think that debates on open data are putting too much emphasis on apps, though. More attention should be put in understanding how to work with data and how to let people use them by making them available in the right format.
Open data and visualization provide people a self-service data insights and storytelling, concludes Gislason.

But sometimes increasing trasnparency may also give a of sense of fear because it forces you to see how things work: that's the case of a visualization of patterns of people moving from Norwegian cities to Oslo, showed by Evan Westvang, an insightful initiative that didn't find newspapers or organizations willing to give it visibility.

The role of media, as well as that of the public sector, is in fact seriously challenged by the availability of open data. Media should rethink themselves in this scenario, argues Anders Waage Nilsen, managing director of MediArena, a Bergen based media company.
According to him, there are four fundamental ingredients to do that:

  • open data
  • open standards and metadata
  • open innovation
  • dialogue

The discussion on open data leads to more questions on how we want to use data: “We don't know what data will be used in the future and for what purpose: transparency should be a core principle.” concludes Nilsen.
Are we really willing (and ready) to use them?