Our story with governmental data started almost 3 years ago when Ran Korber (BreezoMeter’s CEO) was looking to buy house for his family in Israel. As environmental engineer, Ran knew that air pollution is the leading environmental cause for premature deaths, overtaking poor sanitation and lack of water, and a dominant cause for cancer and to many respiratory diseases (Ran’s wife has Asthma). So Ran was looking for air quality information that could tell him what are the air pollution levels in the specific address he wanted to buy a house at. Ran did find some information (As Environmental Engineer he knew that the air we breathe is monitored extensively by governments, municipalities, etc.), but the data was scattered, incomprehensible to the layperson and not per address at all. You can read more about our story here.
BreezoMeter uses governmental data (air quality, weather and more) to map air quality at the street resolution. We are proud governmental data users and we've been speaking about it and being presented as "governmental data users" in various events on the topic. For example, just a month ago Jury Konga presented BreezoMeter at an open data conference and last weekend we shared our story at a google "Democracy as a startup" event.
Here are 5 reasons why governments should embrace open data we talked about at the Google "Democracy as a startup" event:
Crucial to our daily life
Do you use GPS?
“The United States government created the system, maintains it, and makes it freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.”, wikipedia.
How often do you check the weather?
~95% of weather companies use governmental agencies as their provider of weather data.
Drives Our Economy
Only in the US, the weather industry has ~ 3000 employees with ~ $6 Billion annual revenues.
There are many examples of companies innovating using governmental data. Here are unfamiliar three:
A.BillGuard helps you catch grey charges – deceptive and unwanted charges and fees on your bank statements – and remove them. Using CFPB’s consumer complaint database.
B. You can use Kayak to comparison shop for the best deals on flights, hotels, and rental cars by simultaneously comparing hundreds of travel sites. Using Federal Aviation Administration.
C. LinkedIn lets you find and apply to jobs, connect with colleagues and recommendations, and learn about potential opportunities. Using: Department of Labor, Department of Education.
It's a new word I invented but what I mean is that private companies are getting really good with analyzing governmental data and understanding it. REALLY. Take the National Weather Service in US who is responsible for all the weather data (from satellites, ground stations, etc.) and deliveries it to private companies. In 2011 Fox news headlines were "Do we really need a national weather service?"
Their claims were that Forecast Watch has found that the National Weather Service predictions of snow and rain have an error rate 20 percent higher than their private alternatives and When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the National Weather Service was twelve hours behind AccuWeather in predicting that New Orleans would be affected... That's Data Professionalism.
ROI to the public
At the end, the public will get the return on investment from opening governmental data. Take BreezoMeter for example, now everyone can check air quality before going for a run (choosing the healthiest running route) or when taking the kids outdoors. Not to mention the usage for real estate, health and even governments in better understanding their own data. It's a whole new data layer that was unavailable before and now everyone can benefit from it.
It seems that governments starting to understand the importance of opening its data sets, we say "bring it on!".