Open Data: overlooked or overrated?
Case study: mapping licensed vehicles in the Netherlands
In this article we identify the steps your organization can take to explore the business potential of open data. Illustrated by a case study, we ultimately aim to answer the question: is open data currently being overlooked in a business context or is its value simply overrated?
By Karel Snauwaert, Rens van Erk en Pouya Zarbanoui, 6 May 2019
- Information demand
- Open data vs corporate data
- Good, great, greater good
- Case study: licensed vehicles in the Netherlands
- Open data, overlooked or overrated?
Huge amounts of publicly and freely usable ‘open’ data are available on the internet, and yet open data appears to lack traction in Business Intelligence (BI) implementations and programs. To find out if usage of open data can benefit your organization, the first step is to determine your ‘information demand’. This allows you to identify questions to which the analyses of merely corporate data does not provide the answers.
To give an idea, open data can provide valuable insights about external factors influencing the behavior of customers or otherwise the performance of organizations that corporate data alone cannot. In recent years, companies have found crucial variables within open data sources which are used in their analytical models. These appliances of open data enables them to better predict sales quantities (e.g. how does the weather affect the amount of customers?), or to provide contextual information to its users in day-to-day business reports.
Case study example:
For our Case Study, we wanted to understand how the automotive market evolved over the last decade in the Netherlands.
Open vs corporate data
Once your organization has a clear idea of the information demand with regards to open data, you can try to match this to the open data sources available. An understanding of the kinds of open data can offer, will provide the solid basis that is needed to successfully apply open data in reports and analyses. To identify the open data relevant to your business, you need to compose a plan that contains a clear search strategy that prescribes where to search and what to look for.
Once the open data sources that might be linked to your information demand have been identified, you can start planning the gathering and implementation of the data. Be aware that there are crucial differences between open data and the data from corporate data sources. In contrast with most corporate data, open data tends to lack structure and consistency. You will therefore need to perform a rigorous data quality check. Moreover, since the data could become a structural part of your BI landscape it is valuable to find out if and how the open data can be extracted from the source and included in your BI environment, as well as how the open data can be linked to your existing datasets.
In some cases the immediate benefits of open data analysis are easier to quantify than in others. But today’s practice proves that making open data available for your business analysts and data scientists can have a tremendous positive impact on the quality of your data driven insights.
Case study example:
In order to quantify the evolution of the Dutch automotive market, we chose to use open data from the ‘Rijksdienst Wegverkeer’ (RDW). This dataset contains information such as license plate, brand, color etc. for every licensed vehicle in the Netherlands. Using a script, the data can be automatically (re)downloaded, cleansed and stored in a database.
Good, great, greater good
Another interesting case for open data is its potential to be used for ‘the greater good’. Within Deloitte’s State of the State program, we have been using open data for data analyses on various societal themes within the Netherlands. Deploying open data enabled us to answer questions with great societal relevance. For example: what share of Dutch electricity demand could be met by deploying solar panels to their full potential? And, what happens to people in terms of socio-economic factors such as employment and salary, after they survive cancer? The outcomes of these data analyses have stirred up some constructive societal debates and have provided policy makers and organizations with relevant insights.
Case study: licensed vehicles in the Netherlands
The fact of the matter is: the possibilities with open data are sheer endless. And to give a concrete example thereof we have used open data from the ‘Rijksdienst Wegverkeer’ (RDW) containing all licensed vehicles in the Netherlands, to make an interactive infographic. This infographic shows the evolution of the automotive market in the Netherlands for both the major brands (o.a. Mercedes, Volkwagen) in terms of cars sold and other upcoming brands such as Tesla for the last decade. Scroll down to see the entire visual.
Open data, overlooked or overrated?
Even though it can take some time and effort to explore and understand open data, your organization can hugely benefit from using the insights deriving from this open data. Enabling you to make better predictions and to become a truly insight driven organization. Our case study illustrates what is possible when using only open data. The case for combining your corporate data with open data is even more compelling from a business perspective.