Business Management

Steven George-Hilley (Europe) - Fuelling Europe's Digital Economy by Unlocking Data Treasures

The recent news that Europeana, Europe's central hub containing a dataset of over 20 million cultural objects for free re-use, is opening up is good news for the tech industry. Included in the dataset are millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitised throughout Europe and can now be used for creative, educational and development purposes, and will provide much needed fuel for entrepreneurs and their businesses to create more innovative products and applications for users, with no restrictions.

In the era of information enablement, having free access to huge archives of cultural treasures will enable developers to build, create and expand user guides, libraries and archives, to teach and exchange information across borders and between individuals seamlessly. The data can also be used to create innovative exploration websites, online public archives and services to be used in any format, enabling ambitious businesses to obtain, capture and share cultural information with customers.

The announcement also offers a fresh perspective on how Open Data can help European businesses as part of the overall EU digital agenda strategy. Traditionally, proposals in this area have focussed around issues such as standardisation of electronic invoicing to speed up transactions and trading. But using the agenda around Open Data to open up cultural metadata for educational or commercial purposes will give businesses the data they need to develop new offerings to customers, with the added bonus of sharing and promoting the very best cultural elements of Europe.

Currently, far too many barriers exist blocking the free sharing of data across borders due to out of date data protocols and procedures that have for too long been holding Europe back. The proposals for driving through very fast internet are laying the foundations for better connectivity, but unlocking valuable data is critical to stimulating the wider economy by providing organisations with the fuel they need to develop and grow their business.

With the digital revolution transforming the way businesses, governments and society interact, opening up doorways for explosive technological growth from sharp-eyed entrepreneurs with the big ideas of tomorrow is essential. In this context it is indeed ludicrous that public sector bodies have long hauled mountains of public data, blocking transparency and starving businesses of a valuable asset they can utilise. There have already been numerous examples of successful Open Data initiatives in the UK and France, countries which are reaping the benefits of opening up public sector information to stimulate growth in their respective economies. With the EU estimating that Open Data proposals for the reusing of information could deliver around €40bn in growth, it's clear that Open Data can deliver value to Europe. Added to this, there is a huge market, particularly in the mobile industry, for consumers looking for the latest weather reports, online tour guides and maps, which can all be created by unlocking data for commercial use.

Delivered efficiently with the correct privacy protection in place, Open Data initiatives can provide businesses with a goldmine of information that will unlock growth in a time of austerity. Whilst public sector transparency is an added benefit of this approach, the ability to reuse public sector data for any purpose will deliver greater value for money, whilst helping Europe's most talented technology entrepreneurs turn their visions into a reality.

By Steven George-Hilley is Director of Technology & Enterprise at Parliament Street



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