Issue 4: December 2012


By Dermot Joyce, Chief Executive, Liberata

The importance of John Harrison’s maritime chronograph to the explosion of economic growth and international trade that followed it is quite simply beyond measure. His ship borne timepiece solved the vexing problem of fixing longitude, without which sail ships at high sea were simply guessing as to their exact position.

Longitude required accurate time keeping and a set of tables based on a standard, in this case Greenwich Mean Time. The dependence on dead reckoning, guesswork and navigational experience quickly made way for accurate, reusable and commercially valuable data. All thanks to a cleverly engineered timepiece with the ability to keep accurate time in a rolling ship.

Harrison’s innovation joined up, more efficiently than ever before, the maritime trading centres of the World. Three hundred years later, its impact is still releasing its intrinsic economic value. Scotland’s oil and gas industry continues to find and access new reserves thanks to accurate mapping and location information from GPS satellites.

Futurist thinkers see data as the new oil. One of the “Longitude” type enigmas of today is how to economically use big and open data in a world that is producing immense quantities of it every hour. A vast quantity of this digital oil sits within IT systems across all governments in the more advanced economies. This ocean of data is vast. How do we navigate it?

We can replace longitude with “inter-operability of data”, namely the sharing, reusing and exploiting of open data to surface the value of data so that the new insights, correlations and propensities that follow can fuel economic growth and better public services.

But that is only half the answer. The other half is a question of standards.

While standards have been around and in use forever, they are overlooked in their importance in bridging the gap between Open Data strategy and new digital economy jobs.

Data standards, whether they are master, enterprise or open standards, give all data its true meaning and in doing so they also unlock its value.

For Scotland to seize the opportunity to become a data smart nation, and gain from the emerging Digital Economy, it will need to publish its data standards.

This is the key point. The problem is that nearly everyone uses different standards, which in a fast moving, massive data production and open data world means data sets are impossible to interpret and analyse.

Results of current open data initiatives indicate that simply publishing open data, without open standards does not increase data inter-operability and this in turn adversely affects the economics of using it.

In other words, open data can be seen as latitude and its associated open standards as longitude.

It is significantly easier to analyse, mash up, combine and reuse variant data sets by releasing the data standards that define how they have been compiled.

Open data standards enable service delivery experts, analysts and entrepreneurs to interpret what otherwise is meaningless data, and create new ideas, business and services that make a real difference to people’s lives, create value and reduce costs.

By helping doctors understand areas where the uptake of signed prescriptions is low, patients can be helped to recover more quickly. By connecting road maps and data about low bridges, passengers on buses can be protected from injury. By enabling police officers using different systems to identify common crime patterns, offenders can be caught more easily. By sharing data standards, public bodies reduce the cost of ICT projects because vendors can reduce system integration costs.

Effective management of data standards is one of the new and fast growing demands in the New Digital Economy. The ability to manage and map diverse standards to each other, while maintaining the integrity of these relationships forever, is what enables inter-operability of the underlying data.

By opening up data standards, the Scottish Government has the opportunity to forge a new era for innovation. It will enable the public and private sectors to use those standards to properly interpret open data and will make more informed decisions.

Listpoint, a Crown asset, hosts over 18,000 UK Government standards and circa another 4,000 public standards today. It is the largest single repository on-line and is also free of hosting charges to all of UK Government, conforms to Government security levels for critical national infrastructure and contains unique functionality that would make a data manager or software developer’s job a lot earlier.

Listpoint’s ability to manage and more importantly map diverse standards to each other, while maintaining the integrity of these relationships forever, is what enables inter-operability of the underlying data.

For more information about data standards, please contact David Mitton at Listpoint on 020 7378 3752

By Dermot Joyce, Chief Executive, Liberata

Issue 4: December 2012


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