The Need for and Challenges of Open Data

For many people working in research or trying to build a business, they know the importance of having freely available data. Researchers are often asking the difficult scientific questions about the world that often do not have data collected directly to answer them. Finding publicly available datasets is essential to many scientific studies because funding sources for research are becoming increasingly competitive. The same is true for startup companies. They may someday have the resources to pay others to clean and curate the data needed to fuel their business. But until then, they need to find publicly available resources.

Most often during project startup, these paid data resources are a luxury. Publicly available data is essential to balancing their equations. Also, applications built directly from availability of regularly updated and maintained data. Classic examples of this phenomena are of course Zillow, big city Restaurant Inspection apps, and building permit viewers like Chicago Cityscape and BuildingEye.

With all of the need surrounding open and publicly available data, why is it still so sparsely available? Why is there so much turmoil and concern over licensing of data? Also, why don’t people just make things open and available? Furthermore, why do some GIS offices charge for their data? For most data providers, it is because of the amount of work and effort they put into maintaining the data.

The Big Effort Here

We combine this effort with an elevated challenge of finding resources to fund the required effort to keep the data current and update collection methods for future dataset iterations. In addition to the scarcity of resources available to publish and maintain open data sources and publicly available data, it is undoubtedly true that it is easier to measure the value of data when people pay for it, than it is to measure how many people are using it when it is freely given away. This remains a challenge for many municipalities and states.

From there, it begs the following question. How can you show the people you are trying to get the data from people that are valuing the services you are providing them in an effort to justify your own existence when government budgets are shrinking, or are at best accountable to metrics and measurable methods to gauge quality and production? After all, the people holding that data want to prove its value, so the last thing they want is for it to be wasted on a service that cannot justify its own existence. So, how do you prove the data is usable?


It is definitely an interesting conundrum. We know that open data is a necessity and is very important for people in research or who are trying to build a business of their own, and yet they face the challenge of availability, cost, and showing that you can use the data to data providers. However, as our world becomes more connected, open data will become more necessary. Therefore, it is a challenge that anyone who wants to compete and be relevant will have to face and overcome. If you are interested in learning more about open data, we encourage you to click here. It will take you to all our blogs with open-data as one of the subjects. Our hope is that our knowledge can help you overcome the challenges of open data.