Open Data Apps Directory Project

“Open data” is the common label for the proposition to make datasets available to the general public to access and process. Generally, these datasets are held by public bodies, such as government agencies (on all levels – federal, state, and local) as well as international organizations.

The initial hope associated with open data was that access to such data would enhance transparency, constrain corruption, and enable a more informed public discourse of core public policy questions. Open data was seen as strengthening the rule of law and improving the workings of democracies.

More recently, open data strategies have been recast in economic terms. The idea is that rather than offering direct financial benefits (such as subsidies or tax cuts) to innovative data and information startups, governments could offer them access to the datasets they hold. By giving fledging entrepreneurs access to data, governments offer them a crucial resource, thus facilitating their growth and success. Such a “data subsidy” is especially attractive to cash-strapped governments in times of austerity, as the direct financial cost to them is relatively small. The economic argument can be taken one step further by suggesting that a coordinated open data strategy may provide a national economy with a competitive advantage compared to others, and thus propel that nation’s data economy forward.

Today, countless organizations and institutions around the world have opened their informational treasure troves and made datasets available to the general public, covering everything from weather data to government subsidies. The US federal government’s open data initiative alone is said to have led to over 100,000 freely accessible datasets.

Unfortunately, the availability of these datasets has not yet led to similar wave of applications utilizing these newly accessible public data sources. And the open data apps that have been developed are often not used much by the general public. It seems that supplying data is not sufficient to stimulate a vibrant open data ecosystem. Rather what is needed is sustained demand from the general public for such apps. But even finding open data apps, whether web-based or developed for a mobile platform (such as Android or iOS), is hard and time-consuming.

To address this problem, we have developed ODAD (for open data application directory), a web-based platform to search for and find open data applications. ODAD offers a simple, yet powerful search engine that scans a database of known open data apps. And while we are feeding ODAD with open data apps information, ODAD is fundamentally peer-produced, not only permitting but welcoming anybody who wants to contribute to ODAD. Everyone can contribute, and you can contribute as much or as little as you want. Spot a typo in the ODAD directory, or have a piece of info we are missing? Let us know! Find an open data app we have not yet included – just add it to our directory!

ODAD also offers powerful visualizations of the open data ecosystem, including ways to find out what applications are available where and by whom. Equally importantly we offer a network analysis of the open data app developer community that also highlights the promising ties between developers.

ODAD is the brainchild of Professor Viktor Mayer-Schönberger at the Oxford Internet Institute. A team of researchers led by Leonard Mack and including Frank Hangler and Mor Rubinstein, has been adding ODAD data. Kunika Kono, Josh Melville and Jo Munt have worked on the ODAD application and website. A grant from Google has provided financial support.