Yesterday, a story on Techmeme caught our eye. It was entitled “We Need a Wikipedia for data,”. I agree with much of this blog post; allowing a larger number of people access to data will surely help make the information more useful.
A good example of ‘opening up data’ can be found in the book ‘Wikinomics‘ by Don Tapscott. In Wikinomics, Don talks about a mining compnay, Goldcorp , that was going bankrupt because they could not find any gold. So, the then CEO, Rob McEwan, did something crazy; he created a contest to help the company find gold. With hundreds of millions on the line, he set the prize at $500,000. What is crazy about the contest? He made their secret geological data available to the public. The results of the contest helped them find over $200M in gold. Not a bad return on a $500,000 investment.
This is a very ‘press worthy’ story but imagine applying the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ to the development of new neighbourhoods, crime prevention, funding strategies for universities, or even hospital wait times. Unfortunately, many times this data is ’secret’ and only select people are allowed to analyze it.
While most posts and books talk about the US, free access to more of Canada’s data would be fantastic for businesses. Stats Canada does a pretty good job at providing inexpensive access to lots of data but there is room for so much more. Does anyone know good sources of data for Canada?
We are in the early days of empowering people to collaborate more effectively. In the next one, three, or five years, we may see huge advances in this area and with any luck, we will see big benifits for all.