Open data has so much promise. But first we need to wrestle it back from the realm of geeks : RSA blogs 2014-02-08


"Every minute of the day Google receives over 2,000,000 search queries, Facebook users share 684,478 pieces of content, YouTube users upload 48 hours of new video, and Apple receives close to 47,000 app downloads. So much data in fact that more information has been generated in the last 5 years than in the entire history of humankind. And yet it continues to arouse misgivings. Indeed, the only thing that keeps pace with the accumulation of data is our suspicion of it. The very word is synonymous with surreptitious activities, evoking images of WikiLeaks, lost USB sticks on trains and GCHQ encroachment in the minutiae of our lives. A study by Ipsos MORI found that close to 60 per cent of people lack confidence in companies and public bodies to keep their data secure. Little wonder then that last month’s announcement that the data collected at GPs surgeries would be tracked and stored in one place has caused so much consternation.  The Guardian’s tech reporter John Naughton has described these plans as a 'data grab', where all of our most intimate information will be stored in a 'giant server farm'. The feelings appear to be shared by GPs, with one survey indicating that 4 in 10 plan to withhold their patients’ data.  Time will tell whether they will act on their words. But their caginess at just the prospect of sharing information is fundamentally bad news for those extolling the opportunities of open data – and they really are opportunities. Only last year, for instance, the recently establishedOpen Data Institute in partnership with the medical activist Ben Goldacre used the existing available datasets to identify £200m worth of potential savings on statin prescriptions.Likewise, a study by the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery suggests that mortality in coronary artery surgery had fallen by a fifth as a result of public reporting of individual surgeon outcomes.  There is obviously a huge financial imperative here. The NHS faces the monumental task of catering to the needs of an ageing population while simultaneously finding £20bn worth of efficiency savings by the end of 2015. And it’s the same story across the whole of the public sector. Government departmental spending is set to fall by nearly 19 percent in real terms between 2010-11 and 2017-18, while the budgets of local authorities are being cut by a third over the spending review period. If there was ever a time for using data to pinpoint efficiency opportunities then it’s now ..."


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Tags: oa.comment oa.nhs oa.psi oa.government oa.privacy

Date tagged:

02/08/2014, 08:54

Date published:

02/08/2014, 03:54