The potential and challenges of open data for crisis information management and aid efficiency: a preliminary assessment

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The availability of information, and public access to this ever-increasing supply of data, has been growing exponentially since the birth of the World Wide Web. The penetration of the Internet, the increasing use of mobile technologies, the Internet of Things and satellite imagery have enabled individuals, governments, international and humanitarian organizations, NGOs, businesses at all levels, across almost all countries, to create, access, collate, use and communicate a massive amount of both previously inaccessible and newly generated information. Access to data or information translates into empowerment; power to make informed decisions, to solve problems, to generate economic activity, to improve living standards and, in the case of humanitarian emergencies, to protect and save lives. The integral value and many positive spin-off benefits, in particular for the work of the humanitarian response community, emerging from this flattening of the global information hierarchy, need to be reinforced for those who would prefer to keep data in silos, locked away through licenses, patents and proprietary technology. At the same time, the negative use of collated or triangulated open data for destructive purposes against populations or individuals at risk should not be underestimated.