Have you ever wondered where you left your bag, an important piece of equipment, or whether your child has got to school safely? Well, there's an app for that. One Korean tech company uses government-supplied data to help you pin down the exact address and location of the person or property in question. All you need is your smartphone or a tracking device. "Buying maps and address data from other companies was quite a burden and undependable at times. But now we get the data for free on steady terms. It saves us 10 to 20% of our operating costs."
In 2013, the Korean government launched an intiative called Government 3.0, unlocking data in key sectors of public interest like health, transportation and real estate. Having released more than 17-thousand data sets for 6-hundred and sixty-one agencies, Korea ranks first among OECD member countries in terms of data openness. However, a study found that since the initiative began three years ago, only 5 percent of that information was used to develop new products and services. To encourage more usage of the data, there has been a shift of focus from increasing the quantity of open data to enhancing its overall quality.
"Data institutions need to supply data from the perspective of the user, considering accessibility. Another important factor is standardization. Without it, data from different sources cannot interlink, which is very inconvenient. When data links, that creates value. So the government is currently working on that."
Also, an incubation center was established this year to help start-ups build their businesses on data. "Most of those using open data are single-person businesses, start-ups and small companies. We found that what they need most, after data, is the physical space to develop their ideas.'" Start-ups can receive comprehensive support, from business courses, consultations to one-on-one mentoring sessions. There's also a strong synergy effect as they can bounce ideas and tips off each other.
Antock is one such company. It's a fintech startup that provides securities information in a visual way that's easy to understand. "There's clearly a limit to how much an investor can digest and apply securities information when making an investment decision. What we do is evaluate the company's financial performance and stock performance. So all they have to do is come to our website and type in the company name." Users can spot the various risks of a company through colorful infographics, and look up financial jargon that's carefully explained.
"There were companies that sold financial data but now that we have direct access to the source, it reduces our dependency on other businesses and adds to our competitive edge. Most of all, it's cost-effective." It's not just the private sector that can maximise the benefits of data. In countries like the UK and the US, which rank high in terms of utilisation, data is also used by civic groups and public institutions to improve government policies.
"We've got lots of different intermediary groups who are active. We've benefited a lot from a lot of good social interaction between civil servants working on policy areas, a gathering of government, civil society, private sector to discuss how to make government work better. It's important to build the links of trust and interaction."
With more and more data being opened, promising unlimited possibilities, there are more opportunities for both the public and private sectors to convert data into ideas and ideas into impact.