Bureaucracy, inefficiency plague public data access in China

Ecns.cn    2015-02-26 14:12:00    

Illustration of how Intel's big data analytics platform collects medial data from Parkinson's patients with wearable devices. [Photo: intel.com]

  Illustration of how Intel's big data analytics platform collects medial data from Parkinson's patients with wearable devices. [Photo: intel.com]


  (ECNS) - While big data is sweeping the world, China's big data industry is being impeded by government monopoly and companies' limited access to public data, the Economic Information Daily reports.

  Following visits to big data companies and regional government departments, the newspaper found that the lack of open public data and unified data standards/platforms forces companies to waste effort and pay higher costs for basic services.

  For example, information such as public transportation routes, as well as user and business identity verifications on classified information websites, are not accessible to IT companies. Companies have to extract the information from public transportation companies or assign employees to manage user verifications individually, increasing lots of costs.

  More than 3,300 of 5,500 employees for 58.com, China's Craigslist-like classifieds site for local merchants, are mainly involved in verifying user information, according to Qu Ziheng, head of the company's Governmental Affairs Department.

  So why is public data is so hard to get here? There are three main reasons. First, the data belongs to many different departments and organizations, and converging a large amount of data into one pool from so many different sources is a tremendous challenge.

  Second, the various data platforms do not share the same standards, and changing them into one unified standard entails considerable costs.

  Moreover, some departments that possess rich data resources are reluctant to share, further adding to the barriers, according to the newspaper.

  "Government data is public property and belongs to citizens. It should be available to citizens in the name of guaranteed national security, individual privacy and commercial confidentiality," said Li Guojie, director of the China Computer Federation's Expert Committee on Big Data.

  Li suggested that three kinds of data should be made public: first, information needed for operations between government departments, such as individuals' credit ratings. Second, information for administrators of various operations. Third, research and policy information, to enable the results to be used to draft new policies.

  The newspaper noted that developed countries like the U.S., the UK and Japan have made major efforts to make public big data available. Li pointed out that greater openness could lead to better economic results, with the UK saving about 33 billion pounds on government expenditure through effective use of big data technology.  

  Industry insiders said the government should have a clear position in its role in promoting big data. It should draw the boundaries, push for shared platforms and standards, and fully utilize resources to help the industry develop.

Editor:Yu Liang