The basis for “open access”, or open data, is an important aspect of scientific advancement. Making data freely available for everyone without restrictions like copyrights and patents may empower consumers, but does it actually mean anything without analytics of the big data? There are still criticisms and concerns about the concept of open data. One criticism for example, is exactly how open data reaches the average citizen. The majoriry of internet users may not even be able to use the “machine readable” open datasets that governments and organizations provide. This reveals a valid concern; is the average individual actually empowered with open big data? If the data is incomprehensible, does it really help at all?
With this argument, it is logical to put open data into a context that is easily usable and understood by the majority of people. Technological pioneers of open data are using information from government and civic society organizations’ open-data initiatives to create user-friendly tools. These tools can help people by alerting them to imminent emergencies, like an impending flood-like situation, or by delivering comprehensive demographic data on important social topics. Open data is also helping smart cities plan their urban infrastructure. For example, Amsterdam created a hi-tech solution for the city’s parking problems by marrying technology with open data sourced from the municipal government. Apart from high-value, machine-readable datasets that are now available from the federal government, several semi-governmental organizations have created specialized tools that utilize this open data. Open data is no longer looked upon as just an array of figures on a spreadsheet. Today, it is helping create tools that make sense to the average user. So yes, today, open data does empower the consumer.