Lift12 Stories: Rufus Pollock, Open Data

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Rufus Pollock’s session — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

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In Sumer, 5K years ago, businessmen had the idea to start mark counts of stuff on the side of boxes. Born of necessity. Writing.

UK census 1801. Desire to count population. US: 1880 it was taking 7 years to process the data from the census. 1890 Hollerith Tabulator.

IBM 1960s. Innovation coming out of government need and the nuclear programme (need for computational power).

Today, in the midst of a revolution. Information complexity (necessity) and info tech (opportunity).

Government is opening up information. 3 years ago, no open data. Today, also companies and communities.

What is Open Data? Anyone (= really anyone!) is free to use, reuse and distribute. At most, requirement to attribute or share alike.

Dream of open data: dropability (?).

In general, open data does not mean personal data. We’re talking about stuff like train times, station locations, spending breakdowns, national laws… transport, geolocation, statistics, electoral-legal.

Why now? Story of medicine gone wrong.

Summer 2002, ex-accountant from Vegas turned Catholic priest. Chest pains. Told he needs immediate heart bypass. Goes home, calls up his best friend (nurse) advising him to get a second opinion. Non-specialist told him there was nothing wrong with his heart. Saw another one. Same thing.

Went to see the CEO of the first place. Something is wrong, what are you going to do about this? Hrm, not very much. Thanks for the feedback.

Contacted the FBI. Hundreds or (of?) thousands of people over a 10-year period had unnecessary serious procedures performed on them (some died, or ended up permanently disabled or in pain).

Don’t get a flat tyre in front of that healthcare place or you’ll end up with a heart bypass!

One of the best post-surgery survival rates (of course if you operate on healthy people!)

Looking at the statistical data, it would have been possible to notice high rates of surgery and very low mortality rate.

To many eyes all anomalies are noticeable. If more people had seen the data maybe the alarm bell would have been sounded.

Apps and services

  • Mapumental (enter criteria to choose where you want to live — price, commute…)
  • Where does my money go? visualise where your tax money goes, with coloured bubbles. Would help us feel better about paying our taxes.

Why open? Goes back to the challenge and the opportunity of the information revolution. Challenge: exploding info complexity.

In 1820s all UK bank clearing was done in a single room once a day. Today, billions of transactions a minute.

Opportunity: computing power. Today, a smartphone has more computing power than the system for the Apollo moon landings.

Open data scales and closed data doesn’t.

Why not open cars and open shoes? Giving a copy of your car is a problem, but a copy of your data isn’t.

Innovation. Best thing to do with your data will be thought by somebody else (vice versa too).

Better engagement, understanding…

Where are we going?

More use of this open data (specially by businesses). Businesses will wake up to the opportunity. They’ll also realise they need to share back. Communities as well.

Quatity changes quality. More data means better data.

Data as platform rather than commodity. You build on it rather than sell it.

Faraday’s baby. Be modest.

Assumption: institutions have this data and it’s well-organized. Is it sometimes a mess? Or not there? Making it public is suddenly making departments/institutions get their data in order.

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