Sir Tim Berners Lee spoke at an Open Government Partnership reception and highlighted how open data could help solve problems in the developing world. A 14 country study is being funded by Canada International Development Research Centre and will be overseen by leading open data experts from the Web Foundation.
The use of open data opens up numerous possibilities throughout the developing world. Whereas in the UK the use of open data is restricted by privacy laws, in developing countries it is being discussed as a potential solution to deep rooted problems. Mobility data, in particular, is helping in agriculture, education, health care, and transport and its use is gaining the attention around the world.
Recent studies from IBM in Ivory Coast are highlighting the movement of people in an attempt to update the city’s bus system. This innovative use of mobility data is one of the largest of its kind and was made possible through the release of customer call and text data from the giant telecoms operator, Orange. Traditional surveys are too expensive so this use of mobility data, which is strictly anonymous, is cost effective.
There are of course challenges to the use of open data. In the case of Ivory Coast, Orange needed to be persuaded to release customer data and assurances needed to be made around privacy. Finally, it’s use in Ivory Coast may not be relevant in other parts of the world.