Open data success stories

The following is a short compilation of open data success stories. It's hard to see the indirect benefits of releasing data. Since publishing open data is building an infrastructure, there are no obvious direct benefits and you can't predict the concrete impact it will have. It's like building a roads system: you also don't know what type of cars will use it; and with open data, you don't know what kind of applications will be built on top of it. So, the aim of this post is to provide stories about real, tangible benefits people can understand and relate to. The stories follow this pattern:

  1. Some open data is released.
  2. Something useful happens with the data.

Open data success stories:

  1. Opening data about donations to charities saves $3.2 billion. (http://eaves.ca/2010/04/14/case-study-open-data-and-the-public-purse/)
  2. In Houston (Texas) they found out that thousands of traffic violations were dismissed because the prosecuting officer was a no-show, $25 million were lost. (http://www.texaswatchdog.org/2010/11/houston-police-miss-hundreds-of-traffic-court-dates-tickets/1290042682.story)
  3. When the EU farm subsidy data were published, it was discovered that one of the main recipients of subsidies was Nestlé. (http://farmsubsidy.org/GB/recipient/GB131541/nestle-uk-ltd-804817/)
  4. Linked data for the traffic infrastructure in Amsterdam enabled the fire brigade to get to incidents faster by following the optimal path. (http://www.epsiplatform.eu/news/news/amsterdam_fire_brigade_on_linked_data)
  5. Combining the data about houses connected to water supply and houses inhabited by black families and plotting them on a map showed a discrimination against blacks. (http://www.miller-mccune.com/culture-society/the-revolution-will-be-mapped-7130/)
  6. On-demand improvement of maps for better organisation of relief and recovery at earthquake-stricken Port au Prince in Haiti. (http://haiti.openstreetmap.nl/)
  7. 43 % of public contracts in Slovakia had only one candidate supplier. (http://www.transparency.sk/o-43-velkych-verejnych-obstaravani-v-roku-2010-sutazil-len-jeden-kandidat)
  8. The city of Vancouver published the bin collection schedule, so that applications reminding citizens about the upcoming collection can be built. (http://eaves.ca/2009/06/29/how-open-data-even-makes-garbage-collection-sexier-easier-and-cheaper/)
  9. After the release of UK bus stops' locations people started reporting where the bus stops were missing or misplaced. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/sep/27/uk-transport-national-public-data-repository)
  10. Open data enables people in Denmark to make better decisions: such as where to find the nearest public toilet. (http://beta.findtoilet.dk/)

A good list of open data exemplars can be found at the Open Knowledge Foundation blog. If you need further convincing that there are benefits for doing open data, I would recommend reading through an excellent article Why Open Data? from the Open Data Manual. And yes, I know that I should have named this post Top 10 open data success stories to get more traffic…