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03.06.14| G.Stoitsis talks about the power of open data to transform traditional business

Ioannis StoitsisDr. Giannis Stoitsis, COO, Agro-Know, a company  that is using open educational and scientific data to build services for its customers, talks about open data in Greece and its power to transform traditional business.

What does it take to transform existing knowledge (open data, innovative results) into an efficient policy or an entrepreneurial success?

Publishing high quality open data in machine readable format is the main prerequisite for the development of new policies and successful entrepreneurship. Nowadays, only a small portion of public organizations are publishing their data in a format that can be used by external systems to build meaningful data services for the end users. This is mainly due to the fact that governments are not very fully convinced about the social and economical impact of the services that will be built on top of the open data. To that end it is important to showcase to the organizations of private and public sector the benefits through initiatives such as the Open Data Working Group of ELLAK (http://opendata.ellak.gr/). Another barrier is that they do not have internally the required competences to support the opening of the knowledge. Thus there is a need for companies and institutes that will transfer the required expertise to these organizations but this should be done following a continuous rather than a one off approach. It is also important to keep lean the infrastructure requirements that the organizations need to publish their data (hardware and software). Cloud computing and new software delivery models e.g. SaaS can be a good facilitator to that direction.

One of the main concerns about building a business model on top of open data is the reliability of the data source both in terms of quality and availability. There are cases that the data are not correct and other cases where the data are not available due to technical problems. These are things that a new start up that will utilize open data should take into consideration e.g. by foreseeing a layer for the semi-automatic quality checking, filtering and cleaning.

Can you give us any successful examples of enterprises utilizing open data for decision-making and development of products/services? What’s happening in Greece?

So far there are two categories of companies that are utilizing open data: a) those that provide technical solutions to help organizations to open their data and b) those that are using open data to provide services for the end users. Some indicative examples of such companies are:

Recently in the US, an initiative that aims at performing the first comprehensive study of the companies that are using open government data (http://www.opendata500.com/candidates/) was launched. There is already a large list of use cases documented in the web site of this initiative and some very interesting statistics about the sectors and the companies that are using the open government data.

In Greece, apart from Agro-Know (http://www.agroknow.gr) that is using open educational and scientific data to build services for its customers, we are not aware of any other company that has based even partially its business model on open data. Agro-Know is working mainly on helping the organizations in the Agricultural domain to both open their data and to build meaningful services to disseminate their data. There are also interesting applications that are using open data e.g. for car accidents and for public spending, but to my knowledge there is no company nor business model behind such initiatives. There are also many applications that were developed in the context of Hackathons (e.g. http://athens.greenhackathon.com/). Such applications could trigger the set of start ups that will base their business models on the open data.

How open data spaces can transform traditional business?

Open data spaces can help in the establishment of a sustainable and scalable ecosystem that will include stakeholders from both public and private sector. The sustainability of such ecosystem can be based on new open models that will show how the different forms of openness, including open data, open access and open policies can be adopted at the different stages of the knowledge production and dissemination. This does not mean that we should only focus on the new open models but it is important to preserve the traditional business models. Open models enable access, scale, massive adoption, lower costs, localization and social networks but only if existing business models are set aside and new ones adopted.  The new open models should include stakeholders at global, national and local level. For instance it is important to see how the stakeholders (e.g. Universities, companies, cooperatives, NGOs etc) at a local level can benefit from the open data that are provided by a municipality and how this local model is connected with the national and global open models.

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