Open data has the potential to unlock economic value across a number of key sectors. Reports like McKinsey’s Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information, estimating a potential market of $3 trillion dollars for open data, or Omidyar Network’s Open for Business: How Open Data Can Help Achieve the G20 Growth Target helped draw attention to open data from governments and businesses alike.

In the United States, the Open Data 500 and Code for America-related initiatives, among others, have demonstrated the promised economic benefits of open data. Open data is being used by governments and businesses to define new products and services, enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and effectiveness, and empower stakeholders.

New partnership models are also being developed to benefit businesses using open data. The United Kingdom is well known for its responsive demand-driven approach to building its open data ecosystem. Through the Open Data Institute (ODI), necessary resources and networks are provided to propel both public and private open data ventures forward. ODI offers training and skills development to help businesses make the most of open data, runs an open data business incubator, and incentivizes governments to produce better quality datasets with its open data certificates.

But what initiatives and partnerships are helping Canada move ahead with the commercialization of open data?

The federal government demonstrated its commitment to developing a demand-driven approach to the commercialization of open data with the announcement of the Open Data Exchange in its Open Government Action Plan 2014-2016. With this investment, “the Government of Canada will establish an open data institute to support collaboration with the private sector, civil society, academia, and other levels of government to promote the commercialization of open data.”

The number of local governments with open data policies and portals in Canada has increased dramatically to over 50 today. Though making data available in open formats is good, are governments opening the datasets that will generate the most economic value? Open data tends to be a complementary resource that adds value to existing products and services—companies are rarely founded on the use of open data exclusively. It is therefore crucial that the business sector gives input to governments on how they prioritize datasets for release and how they operate their open data initiatives.

A lot more can be done to promote the commercialization of open data in Canada; we need a national approach to providing the necessary infrastructure to achieve our commercial open data ambitions. Canada’s business community needs to be at the table, bringing its expertise and experience to steering how we’ll create value from open data. Organizations like MaRS Data Catalyst are taking the first steps to convene the business community and enable a conversation around commercial opportunities, but there’s still a lot more to be done.

Canadian Open Data Summit

Join leaders from across Canada on May 25 at the Canadian Open Data Summit to collectively confront the most pressing issues in the open data community, including key issues affecting the business sector:

  • What impact do we want open data to make, and how do we measure and achieve it?
  • What types of public and user engagement strategies work best?
  • What partnership models should be developed in Canada?
  • How do we balance the social and economic benefits of open data?

Organizations in Canada and abroad are working on answers to these questions. Among the Summit’s roster of over 30 industry-leading speakers, we’ll hear from Hera Hussain of OpenCorporates, the largest database of companies in the world; Michael Lenczner, CEO of Ajah, which uses open data at the centre of its business model; new businesses like ThinkData Works that aim to create new business models to unlock the value of open data; and Laura Manley of the Center for Open Data Enterprise based in Washington, DC.

The 2015 Summit is an important milestone in forging the path ahead. Don’t miss the chance to be part of the conversation on May 25. Register online today.

MaRS Data Catalyst is proud to be a supporting partner of the 2015 Canadian Open Data Summit. We look forward to seeing you there! –ed.

Jean-Noé Landry

Jean-Noé Landry is Open North’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. Open North is a Canadian non-profit that specialises in open data and creates websites to promote government transparency and public participation.