For years Tim O'Reilly has been saying that "Data is the Intel Inside". When I first heard this I didn't understand, but gradually I came to see the importance and strength of data, but from the business perspective. Companies, like google, use, process and transform data into something that provides value.
I've just read, "Day the Universe Changed", and I'm now seeing the statement in a new light. Since, O'Reilly's original Web 2.0 Manifesto, not only has the value of data become more realized, but data has also become more open. Companies like EveryBlock have lead the opening and availablity of public data, and even data.gov, a portal for government data, has been created.
What does this opening of data mean? It could be more than any of us can comprehend. I see this as a new opening of knowledge to the public. Just as the Gutenburg's printing press solidified "fact" and moved knowledge and awareness from elders and institutions of authority, open data extends the avaliable public knowledge.
With this tsunami of data, the public needs the knowledge to understand it. In the pre-printing press world, knowledge was spread by word of mouth, there was no choice but to understand and accept the world as we and our community perceived it. The printing press and the written word extended our perception of the world, so that we could picture a world beyond that of our life and our local social circle, increasing the resolution of our perception of the world. Now, that resolution is set to increase again.
With the availbility of data, Governments, analysts, and experts are no longer the solitary keepers of knowledge. When this happens data literacy becomes more important. The public will need basic statistical knowledge in order for meaningful conversation to occur. As data becomes more open, the number of "experts" will explode, and some of these new "experts" will, not unlike authority figures of the past, take advantage of those who lack the basic "data literacy" skills. While I suspect schools are struggling to teach basic math skills, in order to start these meaningful conversations, our students need to have a minimal level of data comprehension.
With the spread of data literacy, we may move from rehtorical debates where the keys of persuasion are emotional to debates of data analysis and validaty. These data debates are being had, but until now it was only by the keepers of the data.
I urge academics and researchers to open and share data and data keeping methods. I sense that there still persists a sense of ownership in the academic community. Understand with the opening of data, and more examination and discussion we are one step closer to a better understanding of the world around us.