“Data is the currency of democracy”, explained an open data advocate who encouraged co-operatives to open up access to its data.
Chris Taggart, creator of OpenCorporates — a website that lists 43 million companies from around the world, told a group of co-operative and data enthusiasts: “It’s all about data these days — it’s incredibly powerful, but only if you have access to it.”
The I'm Open campaign, launched by Co-operative News, Co-operatives UK and Open Data Manchester, is engaging the sector to open up its data for the movement's benefit and the first of many seminars started the conversation at the Co-operative Insurance Tower, Manchester.
Chris Taggart said open data is a way of opening up all the data streams of different entities and allowing people to reuse it for their own means.
Many groups of people have started to open data including companies, governments, local authorities and even the United Nations. Discussions are now taking place between co-operatives to see how the sector can embrace open data.
Added Mr Taggart: “Data has always been important to our lives and now our lives are data. If democracy is anything, it's about the ability to take information, pamphlets, what the parties say and to take a different view to someone who has seen the same thing.
“If you can’t have access to the data then you don’t get to have an opinion. There is no misuse of data.”
He went on to say that many governments and local authorities are weak in the data world, because they have too much data they cannot use. He said that co-operatives can use open data to show how they are different from other types of companies, using the Co-operative Group as an example, he noted: “The Co-operative Bank is open about what holdings it has, but it is locked away on a report or PDF.
"If you put that out as open data it would highlight the point of difference from them and if nobody follows suit that makes a significant point of difference between them and other banks.”