Henry van Burgsteden

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Henry van Burgsteden
Henry van BurgstedenFAONetherlands

As rightly stated by Ajit Maru in his post in week 1 and 2, much of the available open data and information is not as useful as it could be, therefore not leveraging its full potential.

Innovative small startups have the potential to leverage that data. See the article about Frugal Innovation: the quiet revolution that is fighting off inequality. See https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/04/how-frugal-innovation-can-fight-off-inequality/

Many frugal innovations, like mPesa, are “empowering”.

This is also stated by the Open Knowledge Foundation.

“Open knowledge is what open data becomes when it’s useful, usable and used - not just that some data is open and can be freely used, but that it is useful – accessible, understandable, meaningful, and able to help someone solve a real problem.

So open knowledge is empowering – it helps us effect change and improve the world.” See



Governments and UN agencies need to make sure their data is more useful, usable and used, to facilitate open innovations. This is part of their core mandate.

In order to avoid that data and innovations are locked away, they need to be “unlocked” by using “Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation.” See http://digitalprinciples.org

The discussions about open data poses a dilemma. The difference between open data on the one hand and micro data on the other, collected through all sorts of digital sensors; e.g. mobile, social, IoT and satellite, much of it in real-time.

Where the former needs to be available in more useful, usable and used ways, the latter poses protection, privacy, ethics and ownership questions. Who owns the data “at the farm level”, now that digital sensors are collecting more and more micro data? Many studies reveal the potential of this big data and its capacity to steer innovation and provide new insights by using data science.

A recent report by GSMA and UN Global Pulse states that the “Achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require development and humanitarian organizations to utilize new sources of data, technologies and skills for planning and programme implementation. The real-time digital data derived from mobile phone usage is among the richest data sources about population well-being. As this data is held by companies, the public sector cannot fully exploit it without leadership and partnership from the private sector. What we need is action that goes beyond corporate social responsibility. We need big data to be treated as a social good,” said Robert Kirkpatrick, Director, UN Global Pulse. See



Two balanced actions are needed; we need open data to become data as utility and big data to be treated as social good.