Open Data

Superb article on weather data and public access in the FT last week. A couple of excerpts:

Take weather data. The United States makes complete weather data available to anyone at the cost of reproduction. If the superb government websites and data feeds aren’t enough, for the price of a box of blank DVD’s you can have the entire history of weather records across the continental US. European countries, by contrast, typically claim government copyright over weather data and often require the payment of substantial fees. Which approach is better?

Another study estimates that Europe invests €9.5bn in weather data and gets approximately €68bn back in economic value - in everything from more efficient farming and construction decisions, to better holiday planning - a 7-fold multiplier. The United States, by contrast invests twice as much - €19bn - but gets back a return of €750bn, a 39-fold multiplier. Other studies suggest similar patterns in areas ranging from geo-spatial data to traffic patterns and agriculture. “Free” information flow is better at priming the pump of economic activity.

There’s a couple of caveats I’d add, like how Europe might not need to spend so much money on weather stuff due to the observably lower incidence of extreme weather events but I think the general point still holds. Open access to data that citizens/subjects have already paid for via taxes is a good idea for everybody.