Open hand presenting a transparent envelope

Giving Away Data Makes Business Better

December 17, 2020
Open data

Ian Makgill

Giving away all your data for free sounds like a bad idea, especially when you’re a business whose aim is to sell data.

It sounds counter-intuitive, as if our principles have overridden our ambitions and we’re doing something that will ultimately damage us.

We sound like people whose hearts rule their heads.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Giving data away is part of a hard-headed, practical strategy that also has long-term societal benefits. We give our data away to those who will use our data openly, which often means NGOs, academics and journalists. We let them use our data to advance their own work. For instance, some academics use our data to develop algorithms that spot fraud or improve categorisation.

Other businesses take our data and publish it online, giving us credit for the work we’ve done for them.

We love it when they do this, but why?

In the first instance, the more people that use our data, the more likely we are to spot anomalies and issues with the data. We can run algorithms to validate our work, but we can’t monitor every record. The more eyes we get on the data, the more likely we are to spot problems.

Secondly, by sharing the data, we get to find out what works and what doesn’t work with the data. When someone succeeds with a project, we get to know which tools and techniques work with our data. It’s like crowdsourcing for our development and research.

Finally, we get known. By sharing our data, those that use our data willingly tell others about it. When we charge for our data, there’s a strong incentive for those buying our data not to tell others about the fact that we’re the data provider. That’s fine by us, but sharing our data also turns out to be good marketing.

If you’d like to know more about our work,get in touch.

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