18 May 2013 – After a Soviet missile shot down a South Korean airliner that strayed into Russian airspace in 1983, President Ronald Reagan made America’s military satellite-navigation system, GPS, available to the world. Entrepreneurs pounced. Car-navigation, precision farming and 3m American jobs now depend on GPS. Official weather data are also public and avidly used by everyone from insurers to ice-cream sellers.
But this is not enough. On May 9th Barack Obama ordered that all data created or collected by America’s federal government must be made available free to the public, unless this would violate privacy, confidentiality or security. “Open and machine-readable”, the president said, is “the new default for government information.”
This is a big bang for big data, and will spur a frenzy of activity. Pollution numbers will affect property prices. Restaurant reviews will mention official sanitation ratings. Data from tollbooths could be used to determine prices for nearby billboards. Combining data from multiple sources will yield fresh insights. For example, correlating school data with transport information and tax returns may show that academic performance… Read more