The FINANCIAL — Putting information on everything from street-cleaning schedules or bus-routes to police-response times and restaurant inspection reports in the public domain, is an important way for businesses to create new services.
Open data, which is considered a new form of capital in the Georgian economy, will help start-ups in the field of multimedia and companies who are already in the IT sector. At the same time, it will provide the opportunity for additional profit to app-maker companies by offering mobile In-App Ads, according to the experts.
Supporting the provisioning of Open Government Data in Georgia is an outcome of the Data Exchange Agency (LEPL of Ministry of Justice) – Twinning Project funded by the European Union. This is an obligation which the country must meet in the coming years. The deadline for it is as yet unknown.
Open data must allow information to be available to everyone for republishing or use, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. As the experts say, the government agencies have a lot of data already that can be reused by the public sector, by businesses, start-ups and researches. The only problem is that this information is not yet open to people, according to the experts.
“The data should not be hidden inside PDF documents as it is hard to reuse,” said Johann Hoechtl, an expert invited to Tbilisi by the Twinning Project. “There could be data but businesses will not be sure that they can use it. A business needs the legal aspect to be assured, that is, under what terms it is permitted to use the data. The benefit is that, by offering open data the Government will encourage businesses to take this data, to build new services based on it,” he added.
“The Government does not have to provide the service, they need only provide the basic data and then innovative businesses can build new services on top of this data.”
“The Government does not have to provide the service, they need only provide the basic data and then innovative businesses can build new services on top of this data. For example, transport data is one important subject. If you have data of the bus-routes or schedules of different modes of transport, innovative businesses can make apps for different smartphones whereby you can find the shortest distance between two points for example, or when the next bus is coming as well as other services. There may be many ideas that could bring profit to such a business. For example, in Austria an app has been created which tells you what the quality of air is in a specific area,” Hoechtl said.
“If there is information about minibus routes and this data is available, some young developers could pick it up and then make an app for tourists to know when minibuses normally come and maybe the business will even extend to offering the possibility to pay for one’s ticket via smartphone,” said Christian Rupp, Federal Executive Secretary for e-Governance in Austria. “Generally, open data helps young developers, start-ups in the field of multimedia, who want to programme mobile applications. Also, it will help companies who are already in the IT sector, who are already doing mobile applications, and it will give them direct revenue,” he added.
“Besides creating apps, companies can make money out of having this data through providing other services. They may offer some services free of charge, but there might be other additional services that users have to pay for. Also, companies can offer a platform for running advertisements inside the apps, so that the users do not pay, but other companies are paying for the advertisements to feature in the app, particularly if it is a very frequently-used app,” said Johann Hoechtl.
“There is a lot of data or information hidden inside the government agencies,” said Peter Reichstaedter, e-Governance Evangelist, Federal Chancellery of Austria. “That is why we are talking about open government data. Open business data should be developed as well, but first of all it is important to have open government data. The train is here but it needs to be put it on to the correct tracks. The transparency of the information provided is important and this should be controlled by the people. There are only two exceptions when it comes to publishing information: the first is personal data, and the second – military security,” he said.
McKinsey, trusted advisor and counsellor to many of the world’s most influential businesses and institutions, estimated in 2011 that the potential value of Big Data for the European Sector would be up to EUR 250 billion per year in 2020. “Most of all the data is created with public money, and therefore it would be logical that this data is also returned to the public for public usage. This would allow them to create new and innovative services that could have a significant impact on economic growth,” says the report.
According to Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission, opening up public datasets could double the value of it to around EUR 70 billion. Subsequently, such data portals can be used to create applications that can help improve society, tackle economic problems and drive economic growth, according to Kroes.
There are ample benefits for both governments and businesses. Open Data Portals can drive revenue, cut costs and improve efficiency, and generate employment for future generations, according to the Capgemini report. Governments for example can increase their tax revenues though increased economic activity or make money through selling high value added information for a price. Although it can be argued that raw data, being public data, should be made available for free or at cut price, pre-analyzed data can be sold at a premium. According to the report “in countries where organizations have moved to marginal/zero cost charging models, the number of re-users increased by between 1,000 percent and 10,000 percent leading to an increase in revenues.”
“Some call open data the oil (or raw materials) of the 21st century. It has great potential which needs to be discovered,” said Bernhard Krabina, Research Associate at the Centre for Public Administration Research of Austria. “There are people who have an idea but are discouraged by the process of actually realizing the idea and will not start it if there is risk; they will not take the risk. When you reduce the level of risk the amount of people starting such businesses will increase. When I say risk, I mean the following: you have to make an investment first before you can earn any profit. If the raw material, in this case the data, is available for free, the initial investment is almost zero. This means that you do not have to invest before you get revenue. You just can try something out and if it fails your risk of losing your own, private money is decreased,” he added.
“The Georgian Government should make data open through an easy web portal, which everyone should be able to connect with,” said Vakho Vakhtangishvili, CEO and Co-Founder at Leavingstone. “For example, a programme could be designed which can give information about where the sun shines the longest. Then a business can decide whether or not to invest and build a greenhouse there. If the data will be synchronized with the average price of the sq.m of the land, the business will have detailed information about how much this land would cost them,” he said.
Private app developers can use open data to offer free or paid applications for desktop or mobile devices.
“To have advertisements within apps, it is important for the apps to have good user traffic and show the company that many people use your app. The prices of advertisements are still not determined but could be the same as they are for famous web pages for example,” said Vakhtangishvili.
“Georgia does not even appear on the world technological map, which is a problem. Georgia does have the potential to become a leading country in the Caucasus region in the direction of digital services and we should not miss out on this opportunity. It would be better if the Government and private sector collaborate together,” said Vakhtangishvili.