[Video] Let’s work together: Big Data and Open Data (Engels)
August 2014 I attended the Big Data for Peace Summer School organised by Centre for Innovation. This is an initiative of Campus the Hague of the Leiden University. I had little knowledge of Big Data, but I did already gain some knowledge on Open Data while working on Open Data at Cordaid.
Every day of the week consisted of a Theory Lab, Think Lab and Action Lab. The first two can be seen as lectures on different views and uses of Big Data. The Action Lab was meant for us to dive into some data ourselves to get an understanding of what working with data actually involves.
So what is the difference between Big Data and Open Data?
Big Data refers to the size of the data, but there is actually more going on here. Big Data derives from our digital lives and tends to be complex and unorganised, which bring challenges in analysing the data, which I will go into more later. Open Data refers to publication of all data. However, as Caroline Kroon of Cordaid points out, it is not about publishing all data and exposing an organisation, it is about organising the publication of data that is strategically relevant for analysis. Thus, the difference between Big Data and Open Data can be seen as whether it is organised or not.
Let’s work together: opportunities for Big Data and Open Data
At the moment Big Data and Open Data are hardly ever mentioned together in an article. Let alone in one sentence. As, for instance, Josje Spierings of Akvo points out in her blog post about Open Development. There seems to be a gap between the two, when they may actually be able to help each other out.
“BIG DATA REQUIRES OPENNESS THAT ASKS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, WHICH TO ME ARE GREAT ASSETS OF HUMANITY”
Open Data its standardisation may inspire Big Data
Open Data is organised relevant information because of a standardisation of format, and this might be where Big Data can derive lessons from. Within the Development Aid sector there is the IATI standard, which enables Development Aid organisations to publish in a format, which enables comparison and cooperation in analysis.
Big Data can share its visualisation tools with Open Data
UN Global Pulse Labs are analysing a lot of Big Data and are visualising it as well. Their hypothesis is that digital services are sensor networks for measuring human well being. Through all this analysis and visualisation experience, they are developing tools for others to use. These tools could be very interesting for the visualisation of Open Data.
Possible better understanding and interpretation of data analysis through cooperation
A challenge within Big Data is to interpret the analysis of the data. To interpret Big Data there needs to be a well defined context. However, how do we know what we don’t know? There might be variables that weren’t thought of, but have a great impact on the interpretation of the data. Maybe through cooperation Big Data and Open Data can come to a better understanding of context and enable a more valid interpretation of data analysis than each separate.
Trust me it is not scary
As I noticed while working at Cordaid and throughout the Summer School, there is still fear around the topics of Big Data and Open Data. As Caroline Kroon replied with a shrug to the question ‘what about risks?’, it shows how Cordaid doesn’t fear opening up. Especially because opening up brings so many opportunities. Caroline Kroon said that we need to bring back the soul in Development Aid as an organisation. We should help each other in developing Open Data. This is why Cordaid joined the Open Development Movement, which implies that we are moving along together and learn as we go.
My personal thoughts at the end of the week
In real short: my own beliefs are that our society at the moment is mostly governed by fear and that Big Data and Open Data might be able to change our society as is. This makes us vulnerable, but as I see it we can only grow from vulnerability. Big Data requires openness that asks for accountability, which to me are great assets of humanity. In the end I believe we are accountable for the data we produce and through openness can find more understanding for each other.
I am interested in gaining more knowledge on the topic, so I can formulate and shape my thoughts more. Big Data and Open Data are here and won’t go anywhere. I am curious how it will shape our future. If not within a decade, maybe in a century. Or two.
Watch online the panel session ‘Big Data for Humanity‘ (1h 44m)
Very interesting is the panel session ‘Big Data for Humanity’, which was organised during the Big Data for Peace Summer School. A couple of the lecturers are panel members, so this might give you an insight into their ideas on this topic.