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A Chat With Hal Varian on Open Data and Gov 2.0

A Chat With Hal Varian on Open Data and Gov 2.0

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Published by Luigi Reggi
Professor Hal Varian - in Italy to meet Minister Sacconi - gives economic sense to the open data paradigm: Government as data wholesaler and the public as retailers. He also comments on the recent criticisms of the US initiatives for open data: “There is enough momentum behind this effort, and we will see progress”
Professor Hal Varian - in Italy to meet Minister Sacconi - gives economic sense to the open data paradigm: Government as data wholesaler and the public as retailers. He also comments on the recent criticisms of the US initiatives for open data: “There is enough momentum behind this effort, and we will see progress”

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Published by: Luigi Reggi on Sep 15, 2010
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10/04/2010

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RegionalInnovationPolicies
Luigi Reggi’s website
 A Chat with Hal Varian on Open Dataand Gov 2.0
Luigi Reggi
Professor Hal Varian - in Italy to meet Minister Sacconi - gives economicsense to the open data paradigm: Government as data wholesaler andthe public as retailers. He also comments on the recent criticisms of theUS initiatives for open data: “There is enough momentum behind thiseffort, and we will see progress”
ProfessorHal Varianis one of my personal idols. As a student, I studiedmicroeconomics from his famous manual which is used in almost everyUniversity in the world. Recently, I used
Microeconomic Analysis
again inmy own Economics course at
La Sapienza
University in Rome, and Irediscovered the clarity and rigor of this text.But my life literally changed after reading
Information Rules
, agroundbreaking book he wrote with Carl Shapiro in 1999. This book led meto study innovationand technology and to make the study of innovation aprofession.Many of you might know he is now
Chief Economist
at
Google
, and his job is analyzing economic trends by exploiting the potential of GoogleSearch and the tons of queries people make every day. A very exiting jobindeed. He is certainly the
master of web 2.0 data
.Professor Varian is now touring Europe for a series of meetings that willculminate with the WTO Forum in Geneva tomorrow. Last Thursday he wasover in Rome to meet the Italian Minister of Labour Maurizio Sacconi at apublic meeting organized by the lobbying and media company Reti entitled “Web Economy: Internet for economic development”.How could I have passed up the opportunity of being there and asking hima couple of questions about open data and gov 2.0?
 
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RegionalInnovationPolicies
Luigi Reggi’s website
Professor Varian, what do you think about this kind of global feverfor open data and Gov 2.0? Is it all hype or does have a future?
I think that this model is very attractive. You can think of the government as the wholesaler of data, that puts it up in bulk form. Then this data canbe downloaded, refined and improved for retail and distribution. There area lot of reasons to think that that model might be attractive, because therole that the Government would play would be quite specifically defined:
make the raw data available
. Then people can extract from that what they want, and polish it, beautify it, crack it and a lot of other things. Sothat is a model which I think could be attractive to Italy, the US and theother Countries. The problem of managing the data from end to end is that it’s very expensive and a very big challenge. The most important step is tomake the data available even if it’s in a raw and unfinished form.
Two days ago, at Gov 2.0 Summit 2010 in Washington DC EllenMiller of Sunlight Foundation strongly criticized the availability andquality of the data published on USAspending.gov and Data.gov. Itseems that this revolution is actually not happening yet.
Well, I think that in the Obama administration, for example, they aremaking a lot of more patent data available, FCC (Federal CommunicationsCommission) data available, and so on. So it is happening, it’s just not asrapid as one might think, because it’s a difficult problem. But I think there’s enough momentum behind this effort, and we will see progress. Asthey say "pazienza"!
(he laughs).

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