Open data has been discussed here on Open Enterprise for years, and it’s probably true to say that it has entered the mainstream, at least as far as the readership of Computerworld UK is concerned. Nonetheless, it’s always good to have more studies of its impact, and of its potential for wider use in the future. A new report commissioned by the Omidyar Network from Australian researchers is particularly welcome because it focuses not on the wishy-washy virtues of sharing, or even its efficiency, but on the economic benefits of open data. Here’s part of the summary for the rather unoriginally-titled “Open for Business” [.pdf]:
Open data offers a new start for economic reform and productivity growth. Leveraging the new possibilities of the Internet to make better use of existing resources, it offers us a way of getting past the political economy of winners and losers.
This report illustrates the potential economic value of reinvigorating the open data agenda in Australia and the G20. Our review of the literature, our modeling, and our case study scenarios show how an open data focus could promote the themes of the G20 agenda—trade, finance, fiscal and monetary policy, anti-corruption, employment, energy, and infrastructure—and in so doing achieve more than half of the G20’s 2% growth target.
Scaling recent results of the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that implementation of open datapolicies including in areas corresponding to G20 agenda items could increase G20 output by aroundUSD 13 trillion over the next five years. This would boost cumulative G20 GDP by around 1.1 percentage points of the 2% growth target over five years.
It’s full of case studies, charts, tables and plenty of interesting references, but here I want to concentrate on that main result: that open data could boost cumulative G20 GDP by around 1.1% over five years.
I choose that because it provides some much-needed context for the European Commission’s claims about the economic benefits of TTIP. An earlier TTIP update noted how even the most optimistic scenario in the main forecast for TTIP – paid for the European Commission itself, and therefore likely to be as favourable as possible – could only find a cumulative 0.5% GDP boost after 10 years. In this new Omidyar report, we learn that open data could potentially give us double that boost, in half the time.
But the real difference between the two lies in the costs. As you may recall, for the TTIP deal to come to fruition with the US, we have been told it will be necessary to accept massive “harmonisation of non-tariff barriers” - things like health and safety standards. That, in practice, is likely to mean lowering those standards, simply because there is no other way to harmonise them (“mutual recognition” is a de facto race to the bottom.) We’re supposed to grin and bear it as cherished European standards and regulations are dismantled because of the economic benefits that we will allegedly enjoy (although if you think that any eventual gains from TTIP will be shared equally among the different strata of society, I have a bridge you might like to purchase.)
Contrast that situation with open data. There, no sacrifice is required. Indeed, very little cost is needed either: all that is necessary is the political will power to open up the data and let it blossom. And yet if you believe this latest research – and it is just as credible as the study used by the European Commission, so why shouldn’t you believe it? - this simple, painless act could potentially bring double the benefit of TTIP in half the time. So why on earth are we even thinking about doing TTIP when there are easier and better ways of achieving superior results?
And while I am on the subject of TTIP, could I just tactfully remind you that you only have a couple of days to make your submission to the European Commission’s consultation on the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in proposed agreement. I won’t go through all the reasons why it’s so important for you to respond, but will simply point you in the direction of my last Update, which dealt with the why – and how – in detail. And if you really, really, really don’t have time, just go to the site No2ISDS, bang in your name, email address and county, and you’re done. What could be simpler?