tom at tommorris
Jun 3, 2012, 3:32 AM
Post #1 of 15
Yesterday I was at Over the Air, the UK mobile hack day, where developers come together and try to build mobile apps and projects, commercial and open source. (I worked on something Wikimedia-related, more of which when I've made the code presentable.)
[Wikimedia-l] Any studies on economic impact of community-produced open data?
One of the things discussed was the perennial topic of opening up of UK government data. The UK government have committed to making as much data as possible openly available under open licenses (specifically the Open Government Licence, which is basically the UK government's rebadged CC BY license).
The UK government are trying to seed use of data with companies, to show an economic and social use for opening up data, and are prioritising open data releases that have some useful economic benefit. For instance, hypothetically, releasing high-quality information about public transport would allow people to develop mobile apps to help people use public transport, while releasing data about bird population studies might be of less commercial importance. The government seem to be leaning towards putting out the commercially useful material first.
One thing that came up in discussion was whether or not anyone has ever done any economic impact studies on Wikipedia and other community-produced open data and open content projects (OpenStreetMap, other Wikimedia projects etc.)? If civic society groups like Wikimedians, OpenStreetMappers, MySociety.org people etc. want to convince governments to put more data out, it'd be helpful to show the economic effects of this, or to have people who are trying to convince government to put the data out to have access to this kind of information so they can make better decisions (cue cynicism here).
There are such reports on the economic impact of open data releases by governments. But I was wondering if we'd seen anything for community-produced data. I know Apple are now using OpenStreetMap within iPhoto and have long had Wikipedia as part of OS X's Dictionary.app. The Foursquare website has just switched over to OSM (the iOS and Android apps both still use Google Maps).
Obviously, the success of Wikipedia has affected the previously dominant players in the encyclopaedia market: Britannica, Encarta, World Book etc. But it is also providing all sorts of much harder to see effects by reducing costs for businesses and organisations. The BBC reuse Wikipedia content within their music and wildlife websites, thus reducing the amount they have to pay for content (or, more charitably, enabling them to do projects that they wouldn't otherwise be able to do). Wikipedia makes Google more useful, and Google have often said "anything that makes the web better makes Google better". Might a decent Wikipedia in a small language effect the market in that language community for technology? If people can actually read stuff in language X, does that increase the demand for computers/mobile phones/Internet access in language X speakers?
Has there been any studies of these kinds of economic impact of Wikimedia projects and other open content/open data projects?
I have seen some discussion of this in the OSM community. Unfortunately, Google is failing me on searching for material on the economic impact of Wikipedia: I just get lots of Wikipedia articles with titles of the form "Economic impact of X". I also couldn't find anything on the Research Index section of Meta.
My eventual interest in this is whether or not there are potential ways governments could work with projects like Wikipedia, chapters like WMUK and with individual volunteers as part of their open data strategy: they seem to want to do likewise with commercial organisations because of the obvious economic benefits that some of that data has. There's potential for a kind of three-way thing, with governments working with both a commercial partner and with a community partner (like a Wikimedia chapter) to produce symbiotically beneficial data.
 see http://wiki.linkedgov.org/index.php/The_economic_impact_of_open_data
 I hate myself when I write sentences like that.
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