HSLU workshop on open data


Invited to a guest lecture in the Information flows and digital business models module of a new course of advanced studies, I talked last week <slides online> to a group of students about how my career in information technology, how that brought me to become an open data activist, and what kind of business models of “digital transformation” I have encountered during this experience.

We have on numerous occasion, and supported by research, asserted that the publication of open data supports the creation of new markets - leading to interesting ways to gain a competitive advantage. Although there was little I could share from a management perspective, I made several recommendations based on personal experience and observation.

The topic of my talk - a “container revolution for digital products” - hints in particular on one of the most interesting projects I am involved in: the Frictionless Data project started by colleagues at Open Knowledge, whose Swiss chapter I have been helping to direct for the past 5 years, together with others promoting the Open Definition in Switzerland.

I talked about the ways innovation is fueled by open data through hackathon events and startup acceleration programs. Shared the stories of several remarkable open data projects that have had an international impact. And talked about how strong standards, cross-border initiatives, political momentum, and global surveys like the Open Data Index help us to improve the quality of the ecosystem.

Quickly relaying the importance of data literacy, and the work we do to support Open Government Data and the School of Data, I tried to show how data architectures and pipelines help to cope with the complexity of IT, in particular the ever-changing plethora of software choices, through compatible formats and shared understanding of the processes involved in collecting, improving and using data.

Data containerization parallels the process of software containerization, as well as the revolution in global trade in part made possibly by standardized freight containers of the last century - see the excellent introductory video by Rufus Pollock for the historical outlook. IT engineers today use Virtual Machines to box up all the components of the software that they are deploying, and we are starting to apply this kind of thinking to data and metadata as well.

The next killer apps in open data will possibly come from the massive proliferation of tracking and digital negotiation/decision-making tools in the form of smartphone apps and smaller device sensors. As the “Internet of Things” proliferates and pervades our lives, we should think again about data ownership and exchange, and exercise control both at a private and enterprise scale, through smart and secure containers.

I encouraged the students, as I do you, my reader, to join us in St. Gallen on July 3 for a discussion of these themes at Opendata.ch/2018. Thanks to the participants of the course for your attention, and to Ladan Pooyan-Weihs for the support!

A few other links shown in class:

I also recommend this presentation as follow-up: