The digital shadow left behind by business transactions and individuals during their daily routines are increasing at a tremendous rate. This flood of digital data includes phone records, internet access, electronic billing systems, web sites, social media, videos, podcasts and many more sources. The Internet of Things initiative has stimulated a vision of the very near future where many more devices are planned to be embedded in cars, electronic devices, healthcare equipment, sports equipment etc. Open Data initiatives are underway in most of the advanced economies with the plan to open up more local and central government resources to the public. These data sources include static data that is published monthly or quarterly for example as well as real-time data such as traffic flows, parking space allocation, public transport schedules. These are the types of data that are proliferating rapidly across the face of the planet and providing the very fabric on which local and national governments manage their operations, policy makers plan for the future, regulators review for compliance/model new approaches etc.
What is not clear to most of us is where is all this data, when is it available, what is the data model, how do I get access, is it aggregated or very detailed, what topics does it cover?......The promise of a world of Open Data and easy access to other data sources is great but if it is just making the data accessible and nothing more then it will be extremely difficult to make use of it. This gap is real both for researchers who dont know about other sources of data or even how to get access to it if it is available as well as for businesses and citizens who might not have a fraction of the resources required to access and make productive use of data sources.
One of the initiatives that FuturICT will promote is for a Data Commons within the Flagship as well as to other research projects initially. We will need to develop a Data Catalogue that will help accelerate access to and interoperability between these data sources if we want to realise a world where we can make use of the potential insights stored in these databases. If we want to make use of this digital shadow then we must think digitally as to how we can re-use and integrate data sources. This industrial scale approach to democratising access to data will help all sections of society and allow us to release the potential value trapped within.
For more on this topic please refer to this short overview on the FuturICT web site FuturICT Planetary Nervous System overview