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Smart businesses can make a killing by using open government data

One of the great technological advances in the world this past decade has been the widespread availability of massive volumes of data. If you want information on anything - anything at all - you simply have to know where to look, and it's probably out there.

This global phenomenon has been spurred on by countless corporate and individual interests - but interestingly, it's also been fueled in recent years by federal governments. For instance, look no further than the Open Data Executive Order that U.S. President Barack Obama signed last May, allowing for troves of public data to be made available to private citizens and businesses.

According to Computerworld, the repercussions of Obama's action could be tremendous. Recent research from the McKinsey Global Institute, in fact, projects that the availability of open data could put $3 trillion or more of annual value into the global economy. Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, told the news source that this is a revolutionary step.

"The vast potential of open data is not only to increase transparency and accountability of institutions, but also to help create real economic value both for companies and individuals," Chui said.

Incredible potential lies ahead
The news source elaborated that for savvy businesses, there are countless potential ways to apply open government data and improve operations.

For example, economic information can be used to predict future market trends. How much will people be willing to spend in the years ahead? Where will the most active consumers be located? What demographics will be key?

In health care, data can be used to develop life-saving medications and devices. In education, it can empower schools to better track student progress and keep people on track to graduate. Data can make the world a better place, and more prosperous to boot.

Quality still matters
There is, of course, one catch. When working with large volumes of public information, it's vital to maintain data quality. If clusters of government data are largely unstructured, it can be difficult to sift through them all and make sense of them.

Everyone in the public and private sectors alike is aware of the importance of data quality, but there are no guarantees with open government information that it will emerge in the right format to be put to use right away. Companies need to make sure they're putting quality first - otherwise, they risk making missteps that can adversely affect them for the future.