Since 2010, businesses in the UK have had access to data published under the Open Government License. This license allows public entities to publish any of their Crown Copyright (the UK copyright that applies to work created under government supervision) materials publicly for use by any business in any way as long as the source is acknowledged. Since its release, hundreds of companies, including startups, have made use of this data in various ways. Here are some of the ways that having access to this data has helped startups not only build the foundation for future endeavors, but succeed much more quickly than startups in the past.
Using data to find a business niche
The first thing anyone planning to create a new business has to do is find their niche—what unique products or services will they offer? Who is their target? How many competitors are out there? The open data provided by the government can be used to determine what new products and services are needed, creating a diverse economy that satisfies many customer demands. By providing this need, startups have less competition and are more likely to survive the critical first five years.
Using analysis to provide additional value
A startup may have a great idea for a product that would do well in a community, but with a few additional changes or alterations, it could fill a major need and provide additional value to the consumer. But without knowing this need exists, the startup would have no idea that they should or even could make those changes. By using open data, startups can become aware not only of the need for specific products or services, but other social, economic, or environmental needs that they may be able to meet. MastodonC, agile big data specialists who use carbon neutral infrastructure, highlights the London Air Quality Map as a great example of this.
Layering on their own data
Some startups have taken the idea of open data one step further and actually designed their own products and services to provide data to others. Adzuna, an online tool for individuals looking for a new job, runs off of real-time job market data. This data, combined with the company’s own API, has become a widely used open data set. James Neave, the Head of Data Science, states, “Coupling data from over 1m live job vacancies across the country with Adzuna’s proprietary salary estimation tool – JobsWorth – the API offers unique leading indicator insights into the UK job market.” There are a number of other startups out there that have shared their data as well, creating an atmosphere of cooperation and advancement.
Other organizations, like Open Corporates, are helping users navigate the dizzying array of data sets that are out there. With support from the World Bank Institute, they have rated the openness of various national company data. For example, the United Kingdom blows the United States out of the water (though it’s saved from “worst entity with United in its name” by the United Arab Emerates and, more generally, United Airlines).
Open government data in the US
What can the US do to catch up, both in terms of company data and more generally? Many new businesses in the US and in other countries could greatly benefit from having this type of information available. As more and more people see how the UK’s economy has benefited from open data in the last six years, more governments may create their own licenses, and perhaps the US will be among them.