Open data brings the potential to improve the way businesses learn about locations and decide where they should be investing. Europe now has the opportunity to benefit from the use of this open data.

Governments around the world are now starting to make their data freely available for all to use and redistribute. One example is the UK government, which through its Open Data Policy has made available more than 10,000 datasets online. This is primarily driven by the government’s aim to be open and transparent to its citizens. 

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Most of this data is raw data (in spreadsheet files and machine-readable formats such as RDF and XML) for people to use and reuse however they want. The real value of this catalogue data comes when the data is linked to other bits of data (perhaps also from other sources such as sensors and mobile phones). This mashing up of data then starts to tell us and show us things we didn’t know before.

This is a great opportunity for European locations to tell very accurate, up-to-date and detailed stories about themselves to potential investors. Rather than hope for the best with their static websites and bland PDF brochures, they can be more proactive, producing public-facing dashboards which report on and help visualise the performance of their place for businesses. Many US cities and states are now using dashboards to provide this useful, timely data. The good news is that Socrata, the Seattle tech company that is helping them to do this, has recently set up an office in London and is now working with European cities and regions to tell their story through data.

 We are still at an early stage of development, however, and to get it really moving, businesses will need to demand access to such data resources. Otherwise, they will most likely still be stuck with the current place marketing puff.         

Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, a site selection and FDI consultancy. E-mail: douglas@locationconnections.com