I’m Devon Walshe, I joined the Open Glasgow Team last week to support on our data collection initiatives. Almost all of my professional career to date has related to open technologies in one way or another and over time I’ve come to see the concept of open data and knowledge sharing as one of the most critical issues of our time.

Ancient Roman open data

Open Data is not a new idea; the Romans started a cultural tradition in Europe by keeping meticulous administrative records and sharing them amongst themselves for mutual benefit. In 1766, Sweden legislated public access to government documents, becoming the world’s first country to have a ‘freedom of information’ act, setting a precedent for other governments to follow.

What is ‘open data’

At its core the concept of open data is uncomplicated. Data is any information held in a structured way that is in most cases used with computers. Open Data is the idea that this information should be available to anyone to use, change and republish if they want. The practical implication behind this is that shared problems become easier to solve when you have a greater number of people working on them.

Making new data

An example of Open Data at work is my colleague Scott Durham’s recent post where he mapped out the locations of all our posters promoting the #hackglasgow event this weekend. By taking a list of places on a spreadsheet and making it publicly available through Google maps engine, he made it possible to interact with the process of running the event. This is what Open Data is all about.

Is it mine?

Open Data also comes with a few challenges. The vast increase of information available today has arguably led to an ideological dilemma about ownership. Data is taking a central role in how value is perceived, and as with anything valuable, there is a human tendency to hoard and protect it.

Some companies have built their business models around opening their data and leveraging the resources of individuals who use their services to improve them. Others would typify the hoarding instinct – harvesting user data and selling it on. The recent stories about NSA (the U.S.A. National Security Agency) data collection initiative demonstrate the concerns and risks associated with very closed data.

Open Data Day: 22nd February 2014

Open Data Day, taking place on the 22nd of February 2014, is a celebration of the creative potential of Open Data and an opportunity to increase awareness of its importance. Around the world, citizens will be liberating data, writing applications and analysing data in ways that demonstrate what can be done when people work together to solve shared problems.

Open Glasgow will be celebrating Open Data Day at our first of four Hackathons alongside developers and creatives prototyping innovative ideas around public safety. We’ve been working hard to open up data from the Glasgow City Council and other sources and will be providing everything we have for use by individuals and teams at the event.

This is a significant opportunity to link people up around Open Data, and it’ll be fun, so whatever your background you can get involved with the celebrations. Tweet #hackglasgow on Twitter to keep up with our conversations. Click here for information on your local Open Knowledge Foundation events