Let’s cut the bull: A simple OpenData benefit calculator

You will no doubt have noticed that, throughout the past couple of years, local and national governments all over the world have been announcing open data initiatives. At the moment this is particularly the case in Europe where, from Portugal to Lithuania, hardly a day goes by without a new press release. The most prominent was the recent publishing of the EU Open Data Strategy.

Releasing open government data is – of course – a good idea for all kinds of reasons. I strongly support these initiatives even though I also realise that not all that glitters is gold (for further reading I greatly recommend this analysis by Shane O’Neill).

But one thing always makes me laugh: the billions and zillions of “economic benefit” that the release of open data will allegedly create. Yes we all know – intuitively – that there are benefits, but we also know that these benefits are difficult to quantify. As we seem to live in a society where we no longer believe our own judgment unless it is backed up by numbers, we then feel the need to reverse-engineer the pre-determined result with expert bullsh*t known as a market study or economic research.

Let’s be honest, we can make life easier for everyone. In that spirit, here is my contribution to the Open Data world:

Simple OpenData Benefit Calculator™

The fundamental logic is this. A quick Google search shows that, in the EU (population 500 million), the benefit of open data is apparently between €40 billion or €68 billion, depending on who you ask. That is, roughly €100 per citizen. In the UK (population 60 million), the benefit is said to be £6 billion: roughly £100 per citizen. In the US (population 330 million), the benefit might be $750 billion: about $200 per citizen.

Now, do you see a pattern emerging here? Of course, this would be far too simple. So here is a proper formula to help you justify your next Open Data release. I guarantee it works every time:

The Prime minister’s age is expressed in years, and the shoes are in European size (note however that if you use American or UK size then your benefit will be greatly improved). The overall benefit is expressed in local currency but for added accuracy or randomness you could also introduce a foreign exchange factor.

Worked example

Let’s take Romania:  The population is 22 million and the Prime Minister, Emil Boc, is 45 years old. His shoe size is probably 42 but I’m just guessing here – this is where the true research would come in. So here we have:

In other words, the open data economic return for Romania will be € 2.36 billion. As you can see this is a really precise number, so it must be true.


4 thoughts on “Let’s cut the bull: A simple OpenData benefit calculator

  1. tres amusant my friend and an interestng idea
    let me have a play with the numbers too (as I was in the middle of a companion piece anyway)…….tongue firmly in cheek now…..
    arguably you give too much credence to already discredited “research” (is it really research when you regurgitate previously flawed estimates on the same subject?) in arriving at your multiplier; if it were one (as it is in some estimates) then you would have a far more precise, if no more accurate, measure of the benefit e.g. Romania Euros 0.02357142857 bn, or just about enough to run the ODI long enough to see whether it is “correct”

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