I read this Gartner blog post about the government making its data more easily accessible with a little smile on my face because it caused me to have a little "Back to the Future Moment" moment. More specifically I enjoyed this part:
A conversation with a federal client on Monday about this last aspect was illuminating. He observed that certain data may allow businesses to create services that they charge for and profit from. If successful, these services, irrespective of whether they are useful to the public, would put a significant demand on the government infrastructure. The question then would be how to strike a fair balance between providing data transparency and access to the public, and ensuring that taxpayer money is not being used to subsidize businesses.
I hate to tell them, but there's been a nice little sector of the publishing industry that's made a killing off of repackaging public data since well before the internet even existed. They did it by compiling relevant data for readers that was easier to digest than the "off the shelf" data provided by the government and/or the information was delivered in a more timely manner. To me this worry is a lot of noise about nothing; the government has to provide the public access to its data as part of its mandate and worrying about businesses being subsidized by this activity is, to me, nonsensical. Companies won't be in business long if they simply regurgitate data, but they can build a nice business if they add a little value for consumers (insight, context, timeliness, etc.) and I think everyone benefits from that in the long run.