I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the rising importance of this “public information layer” — significance, data that we’ll need (“we” applied extensively, meaning that the general public, NGOs, authorities, scientists, journalists) to make sense of what is happening in and increasingly busy, but increasingly quantifiable world.
First, a few of the drivers . Generally speaking, there’s more information being generated than ever before, a lot of that has a bearing on”people” issues. Some of the specific drivers include:
- Increasing role of”programs” in controlled spaces (transport, health, finance, education, etc) — these are enormous generators of information with direct and indirect bearing on people issues.
- Abundance of networking — as we’ve seen with the recent US election, the growth of independent & social media is democratizing but also debatable.
- Personal health information — the price of gene sequencing is falling like a stone , which will cause an explosion of health information. This data provides personal price but can also give enormous societal price.
Why this will be significant? And more specifically, we’ve got the capability to redesign how we make policy and manage regulation given those inputs. If we do this right, we can get smarter at policymaking, and layout regulatory systems which have both increased effectiveness and reduced costs of compliance and implementation.
Thus, what infrastructure will we will need to manage and process all this public data? This seems to be forming into some broad categories:
- Data pooling & evaluation platforms — tools and APIs which make sense of these data — generic/foundational tools such as Composable Analytics and Stae, and more particular, vertically-oriented jobs & tools, like OpenTraffic and Aerostate.
- “Legislation 2.0” platforms — especially designed to ease a data-driven policymaking and regulatory process — as an instance, MeWe, Airmap, SeamlessGov. Blockchains provide us both public information access and data integrity in a manner that has not been possible before. Much of the focus remains on”foundational” blockchains such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tezos and Zcash, but finally this technology will get to the application layer and we will have more explicitly”public” applications. In addition, I hope that Blockchains and Legislation 2.0 platforms will become ever nearer and ultimately merge. And second: how can we give truth the focus it needs to”win”? The huge platforms such as Facebook are experimenting with this today, and we’ll probably see more services and tools that assist with this.
That is the vision — in which it appears clear that we’re heading, and where we will need to head. So, the important question is, how will we really get there? A Whole Lot of questions/thoughts in my mind are:
- Broad vs slim? Strikes me that we’ll see the most traction in narrow software first — the thin edge of the wedge, that solves a concrete issue. Additionally, the”private data layer” has not arrived in one broad stage .
- Open standards + supply magnets: dating back to my own job around open transit information, a vital learning was that open standards need distribution magnets. This is something, but is not the real thing — the main question is the way to have actual data moving.
- Government is not the only audience: public information is obviously useful for policymaking and regulation, but it is equally important for scientific research and journalism. These areas may end up being the first leaders.