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In April 2020, Microsoft launched the Open Data Campaign, an effort to furnish countries and companies with data and make it easier to use, share, and collaborate with that data. Today, the company shared the progress it’s made toward those goals, as well as the focus areas for the remaining year ahead.

Most enterprises have to wrangle countless data buckets, some of which inevitably become underused or forgotten. A Forrester survey found that between 60% and 73% of all data within corporations is never analyzed for insights or larger trends. The opportunity cost of this unused data is substantial, with a Veritas report pegging it at $3.3 trillion by 2020. That’s perhaps why organizations have taken an interest in partnerships and technologies that help to ingest, understand, organize, share, and act on digital content from multiple sources.

Microsoft says it launched nine data collaborations with an emphasis on addressing challenges in the areas of sustainability, health, equality, and inclusion. That’s roughly halfway toward the company’s aim of 20 new data collaborations by 2022. Where possible, Microsoft says it also opened and shared its own data, including U.S. broadband usage data and Bing Maps aerial and streetside imagery.

“Using … lessons learned and building on the progress we’ve made alongside our partners  we plan to spend the next year focused on the practical aspects of data sharing and making the process easier,” Jennifer Yokoyama, VP of the IP group at Microsoft, said in a blog post. “Many organizations want to do more around open data and data sharing, but when it comes to the practical aspects of how to do it, they often don’t know where to start.”

To this end, Microsoft this morning published course materials about how organizations can use open source resources to guide their data reuse strategies. And the company says that the Open Data Policy Lab, an initiative with support from Microsoft and New York University’s GovLab, will shift its mission to scaling data stewardship guidance for public and private sectors. A new Data Stewardship Academy will be designed for a broad reach, and the Open Data Policy Lab will launch a project, called Open Cities, to build community and share insights among cities using data to drive change.

Open Data Institute

Beyond this, Microsoft says it’ll continue to identify and assist with data collaborations to address societal issues. Together with the Open Data Institute (ODI), Microsoft says it’s launching three collaborations centered on one of six priority areas:

  • Achieving net-zero value chains through better tracking of scope 3 emissions
  • Supporting a ‘green’ recovery from coronavirus (Covid-19)
  • Reducing energy consumption in commercial buildings
  • Improving water resource management
  • Reducing the climate impact of urban transportation
  • Reducing waste

Microsoft also says it’ll be announcing an open call for a new Peer Learning Network for data collaborations to participate and learn from each other. Another focus area of the ODI going forward will be to build momentum through case studies across sectors that highlight the value of opening data.

“To fully realize the benefits of data, policymakers must work with industry, academia, and civil society to develop incentives, infrastructure, and mechanisms to responsibly share public and private sector data within — and across — organizational and national boundaries that are in line with the rule of law and safeguard human rights, while allowing for effective data re-use for innovation,” Yokoyama continued. “In addition to properly maintained and funded national open data programs, data governance frameworks create trust in the integrity of the data sharing ecosystem by ensuring that the benefits of data are equitably shared and by providing adequate safeguards to protect cybersecurity, human rights, and privacy.”

Microsoft stands to benefit from data collaboration on its Azure cloud platform, of course. As of the most recent fiscal quarter, the company’s biggest growth driver — and the component of its business that pushed its market capitalization close to $2 trillion — was Azure. For Q3 2020, the company saw $15.12 billion in revenue from the segment, a 23% year-over-year increase.

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