One of the interesting offshoots of open source is open data. It's still very early days, which means that few have started thinking about the tricky next stage: how to build a business around open data. But some brave souls are already trying, including the company behind something called OpenCorporates, launched a few months back.
Here's the basic idea:
OpenCorporates (http://OpenCorporates.com) is a new project launching today that for the first time brings together the basic, essential information about companies, and government data that relates to them.
Although this seems a simple task, it is something that has eluded successive governments. Governments don't store basic facts like the company numbers of their approved suppliers, of those they issue with Health & Safety notices, or of those who they pay money to, nor even what types of companies they do business with.
Not only has OpenCorporates collated that information, it has also pulled in data on 3.8 million UK past and present companies, and matched the government data against those.
Over the next few months OpenCorporates will be adding company data from other countries – it already has the basic company information for Bermuda and Jersey – and will be combining that with further global public datasets.
the service is entirely open, with the data and services being made available under the share-alike attribution Open Database License (ODbL). This license permits others to share, create, and adapt the OpenCorporates database under the same license, even commercially, bringing much this data out into the public realm for the first time.
Not content with that act of public munificence, OpenCorporates is going further:
In order to kickstart the effort OpenCorporates (technically Chrinon Ltd, the micro start-up that's behind OpenCorporates) is offering a bounty for new jurisdictions opened up
It's not huge (we're a micro-startup remember): £100 for any jurisdiction that hasn't been done yet, £250 for those territories we want to import sooner rather than later (Australia, France, Spain), and £500 for Delaware (there's a captcha there, so not sure it's even possible), and there's an initial cap of £2500 on the bounty pot.
It sounds like a really exciting and important project. Quite how they'll make money, I've no idea; but if they succeed in putting together a comprehensive OpenCorporates database of the kind they describe, I'm sure they'll have people beating a path to their door to tap into it – and into their open data expertise.