Is It Time for Corporate Open Data?

Governments have begun to benefit from open data portals; will corporations follow suit? Gap, the ubiquitous clothing retailer, recently encountered the wrath of the virtual consumer, due to a poll about a proposed new logo on Facebook. The heavy negative reaction to the new logo prompted the company to pull its suggested redesign, and offer statements of apology for “going about the process the wrong way.”

Prior to the internet, corporations rarely retracted business decisions unless there was a lawsuit or a massive letter writing campaign. While Facebook has more in common with an instantaneous letter writing campaign than a formal legal action, the company’s apology is curious, as if Gap is somehow admitting that the only way to conduct business is through public opinion polls. Admittedly, consumers have always voted with their dollars; but have we reached an era where they can now simply vote online?

In many places, corporations now act with the power formerly accorded to nation-states. Since officially sanctioned nations are now successfully exploring open data portals, is it time for corporations to start thinking about integrating greater transparency into their business processes? In the same way that ordinary citizens have come up with applications to make better use of public data, perhaps it is time for corporations to open a similar channel for the public, to keep both the corporations and its consumers from drifting too far apart in their goals.

The old model of capitalism emphasized a conquer and destroy outlook. When taken to its end stage, this model results in creating pockets of hyper-wealth for a few dozen people, and crushing economic conditions for the remaining 6 billion. Perhaps new corporations should strive less to conquer and destroy than to develop and collaborate, resulting in healthy profits for the company, and healthier living conditions for everyone else.

The idea of employment itself could be radically reconfigured; a roving ‘skills app’ which allows people who possess certain abilities in a given geographical area to list themselves as looking for work. Corporations may improve more than their bottom line if they choose to embrace an open approach to technology and data.

Christopher Smith. Canadian. CEO of We provide enterprise content management solutions for governments around the world.

6 Comments on "Is It Time for Corporate Open Data?"

  1. kev says:

    Actually i think it’s time for gov’ts to FORCE corporations to open more data, particularly when they operate across borders. TNCs in particular hide their shady governance behind the BS of “competitive secrets”. If all companies were subject to the same openness, the market would still have its role.

    • Chris Smith says:

      Governments currently regulate a lot of these corporations. Tons of data are collected on an annual basis for review by public servants. Opening this data to the public could have its benefits, I completely agree. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Pete Bass says:

    Yes! Yes! It is well beyond time for corporate open data. It is all our money. At least governments are trying to help us, private corporations are by definition just in it for themselves – at the very least we should know what they know.

    • Chris Smith says:

      Could agree more. I’m happy to see some organizations have begun opening their data to the public. But, we are still so very far from “knowing what they know”. Thanks, Pete.

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