Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Where will it all end?

Open Source is with us to stay, I accept that now. It took a while but I now understand the fact that Open Source wont give up and go away. I may not whole like it or agree with it but I can live with it.

Open data too is with us to stay. I like this rather more. Or at least I though I did until I settled down to think about it,. nursing sick children gives you time to mull things over.

When Tim Berners-Lee shouted "Raw data now!" at the TED conference, I almost joined in with the video I was watching of it. Data collected using tax payers money should be made available to tax payers to use, analyse, make decision on and recycle in whatever way they see fit, data protection not withstanding. I still think is is a sound idea and one which should be pushed into law to force local as well as central government to do. Take a look at what Nottingham City Council have said regarding this to see the reaction against it.

But what of other free sets of data? Open Street Map & Ordnance Survey OpenData both collected in very different ways but both free to use. But both have impacts that seem not to be discussed. The opening up of some OS data was roundly greeted with cheers by the industry, unless of course you had a business based on selling that data or competing data sets. A cost that has been ignored by most, not wanting to tarnish the good news with the cost perhaps? Or more interested in how it benefits us and not what it costs others?

"Ah but you need to change you business model", "Innovate", "The world has changed" are the kind of things said by people who's jobs are not under threat from free data or open source software use.

But back to the data issue, what about data collected using public money that's not taxation? Gas, water and electricity? Telephone? Private providers to public services? Dental service?
I have seen calls for the opening up of almost ever data source, whether in private or public hands, largely it hs to be said from the academic community. But surely there is an event horizon here, eventually we all cough up all out data and no-one can afford to collect any more (except the publicly funded academics of course).

And whilst am having a rant at the the world of academia, I read yet again in GeoConnexion magazine this month that another GI application has been developed by a university and being sold in the corporate arena. A public funded body using its captive in house free workforce (students) going into direct competition with private comopanies that have none of the above.

When making things free, we have to look at the cost, to all concerned.