Open data is the information collected or produced by public bodies and made freely available to everybody through portals in a machine-readable format. It could contain vital information on the economy, health, infrastructure, environment, and other areas that could impact the citizens’ socio-economic conditions.
Open data can be used for various purposes:
Governments, for example, can use this data to draft evidence-based public policies and deliver smooth services to citizens. They can also use it to create new jobs and boost the economy.
Citizens can access government-backed information to ensure transparency and hold the government accountable.
For example, Nigerian citizens use a website called Follow the Money to check if public funds are used to implement policies promised to the citizens.
Initiatives like these can help build trust between the government and its citizens. Similarly, India has developed a mobile app called Teeka that enables citizens to track children’s vaccinations and women’s pregnancies.
Innovators and private companies can use open data to build innovative products that benefit citizens.
For example, startups in India can use the Indian Driving Dataset (IDD) to improve road safety. This unique dataset consists of over 10,000 images of 182 drive sequences on Indian roads that startups can use to build an AI model that can identify potholes in the streets and create road safety solutions.
According to a McKinsey report, open data can accelerate innovation, transform the economy, and create $3 trillion worth of economic value for a country.
However, to unlock the full potential of open data, the government must encourage students, researchers, and innovators to collaborate and use this data to bring positive changes in the country.
Let’s find out how this collaboration can be built and what India is doing to make it a reality.
Why Should Students, Researchers, and Innovators Collaborate to Innovate
Access to open data empowers students, researchers, and innovators to draw from their strengths and develop unique solutions to solve larger issues.
Students can use open data to gain practical experience in solving real-world problems using a data-driven approach. They can use the datasets to draw insights and make recommendations to solve problems faced by citizens.
Institutes can invest in training students to develop their problem-solving skills and create breakthrough solutions.
Researchers can use the vast dataset as a source of information for research. This can help them present a more comprehensive and in-depth thesis on a topic.
For example, an epidemiologist can use open data on public health to study infectious diseases and present solutions to the government and healthcare companies to eradicate them. They can also use open data to validate their experiments and increase the credibility of their research.
Innovators are inherent problem-solvers. They can use open data to identify gaps and find solutions to bridge them.
Each of them has specific strengths that they can use together to improve the research and propose better solutions to solve problems.
To improve collaboration between students, researchers, and innovators, here are a few steps government, institutions, and companies must take:
Define a common goal, i.e., what all stakeholders intend to do with the open data. This will help them plan a strategy and stay focused on achieving the same goal.
Next, all stakeholders must be granted authorized access to open data and trained on using it responsibly.
Every stakeholder must be assigned a role to ensure smooth operation. For example:
Students can collect and standardize data.
Researchers can validate and analyze the data and suggest recommendations based on their domain knowledge.
Innovators can build solutions to solve the problem.
Frequent communication between the stakeholders will thwart all chances of disruptions and facilitate easy data exchange.
Monitor the impact of the research and experiments on society and share the findings and recommendations with the government and publications to pave the way for future innovations.
Best Practices to Reap Full Benefits of Open Data
According to a KPMG report on India’s open data initiatives, there are a few best practices that all stakeholders must follow to reap the full benefits of open data. These include:
Standardizing the open data and using uniform terminologies to save time and maintain data quality
Training the government authorities on using open data to streamline their work
Establishing governance to ensure no confidential data is shared with the public
Ensuring the data is updated regularly to maintain data quality and security to prevent breaches
India’s Stride Towards Innovation with Open Data
India’s public bodies have a treasure trove of open data, which they can use and share with innovators and institutions to innovate and improve the citizens’ lives.
A decade ago, India started working in this direction by launching the Open Government Data (OGD) portal. This portal provides millions of people access to government data, which they can use to build new applications and services. Several innovators have also started training the Artificial Intelligence (AI) models to make accurate predictions and data-driven decisions.
However, there’s an urgent need to prepare the youth to become AI-ready and develop an innovator’s mindset, especially since India has the largest pool of young demography.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has launched the National Program on Artificial Intelligence (NPAI) initiative to build a pool of skilled, AI-ready youth. It will also focus on promoting AI research and providing access to quality datasets they can use for research and building innovative solutions.
With skilling initiatives like these and access to open data, students, researchers, and innovators can collaborate more meaningfully and make combined efforts to design and implement innovative solutions that resolve people’s issues.