I was fortunate to be invited to give a talk at Mapitude. Unsurprisingly I spoke about community mapping, spatial data infrastructures in developing nations and Taarifa. I also touched upon open data and how services and platforms using open data need to be developed. I think that open data is great – for more info watch this TED talk by Tim Berners-Lee – however I believe open data is only the beginning not the end point of data development.
We need platforms and services, which are open and free to use for the vast majority of citizens. This presents opportunities for new business models, while the data should be free at the point of service, the costs of collecting and distribution (if not crowdsourced – I’m not implying crowdsourced is free to produce either) need to be paid by someone/something. Data is just data, it doesn’t help improve sanitation or water access but wrapping it into a service or platform could and should.
Platforms and services like Taarifa, Ushahidi and Open Street Map all are very expensive to run, however need to be free for the public good that they serve. I doubt advertising can fully meet the needs and costs – look at Facebook, whereas I believe over a long term grants and loans are unsustainable. A freeium model could be the way forward, tailored around a service being offered which the platform sits on, which is free up to a limit. Deciding on who to charge for an what is a difficult question and would be needed to considered carefully, with questions around licencing and ‘fairness’ paramount. As such the communities which create the open source software which drives the platforms and services need to be part of any decision that takes place and be at the heart of the community and process.
I’m not saying that open source platforms and services using open data need to make a large profit, this is a charitable enterprise after all, the profit needs to be reinvested to support innovation, be it buying equipment, investing in training or paying for hosting. However open data, open platforms and open services need to make money, which can be reinvested in supporting its community, providing free services to those that deserve and need it, while enforcing payment from those that can pay.
Written and submitted from Mokka City, Dar Es (-6.8162376,39.2885885)