According to World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt (PDF), “data is the new raw material of the 21st century”.
Open data itself is not a new concept. According to Berners-Lee and Shadbolt, “open data helped Florence Nightingale to revolutionise nursing in 1856 when she showed that most soldiers in the Crimean War died of disease rather than from their wounds”.
The quest to expand and improve access to information is as old as human history. The first book with an alphabetical index, published by two German printers in 1467, was one game-changing innovation in a long and honourable tradition.
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There is an old mathematical puzzle about three mathematicians and a bell-hop which is a good lesson in how numbers can be used to deceive as well as inform.
Three mathematicians travelling to a conference out of town decide to save money by sharing a room (clearly these mathematicians are academics rather than mathematicians working on exotic products for investment banks).
At the front desk, they pay $300 for the night for their room.
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