How do we persuade businesses to release open data?

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Opening up corporate data

Google Docs notes for this session

The Food Standards Agency is working hard to open up its data. But how do they encourage others in the food chain to open up business data? There’s some clear value in doing that.

Is that value also there in other sectors? And how do we persuade business to open up their data?

Anne McCrossan suggests that the trade standards bodies need to take the lead in this. What are the collectives wins that open data could help accelerate? If we can dig into those, they can help encourage people.

Can we find some catalyst organisations? The Food Standards Agency have an open data push at the moment – and they’re trying to get over 90% out this year. They’re developing standards and strategies to help different parts of the food industry get involved. You don’t need to get everyone straight away – if you can get a large number to move quickly, the ones that are isolated and left behind will join in through embarrassment.

Finding open data leaders

It’s also worth listening on social media for people doing this off their own backs – even if they’re not calling it social media. Identifying the organisations that are most receptive to that is useful. You can create subject discussions around the self-selecting ones, and build a community of practice. And that makes others want to get involved. Start with big data sets that are collected routinely every day.

The food industry has a notoriously low margin, and a lot of regulatory risks. Data can ease those problems. Focus on:

  1. Process innovation.
  2. Risk reductions
  3. Value / margin generation

A regulatory environment helps – if you have to make data available to certain parties, why not make it open?

What are the reasons for resistance? Commercial sensitivity. Data Protection Act. Competition- “it’s against competition law” (it’s not). There’s a lot of myth debunking needed.

Positive brand value from opening up

But some organisations are quite positive – they see the value in, say, helping them manage complex supply chains. There’s also the positive brand value for some companies. Different parts of the organisation may well be in different places – and you need to work out who feels what. This becomes a governance issue – some companies who are becoming digital by default might be prepared to go open by default – unless there’s a good reason for it not to be. But not everyone has the digital skills to evaluate these issues.

Should we work at a local level – identify a city or a region, and get the big people there to get involved? Are startups a better bet – because it’s more their culture, and it could be competitive advantage? People respond well to badge – have a stamp of approval or tick for companies. Food chain open data champions!

Telling the Open Data story

There are national interest stories here – get people excited about transparency about the food supply, and choose supplies on that basis. Maybe we could get into into apps – like MyFitnessPal. People do care about the provenance of their food. Or TreatOut, perhaps. Sedex are interested in the sustainability of the global supply chain.

There’s certainly the opportunity to learn from other industries. For example, there’s an open banking working group being run with the Open Data Industry. That’s an example of moving an industry ahead of the game – perhaps jumping before a regulation push. Sport and activity data was brought together for Spogo – but the data was paid for, which raise the expectation that open data should be paid for – which is not good.