The idea that certain public data should be readily available in machine-readable and other open formats has created a lot of excitement world-over. This is mainly due to its potential to empower citizens, enhance the delivery of services especially public services and change how government functions. Thus, make public sector operations more transparent and accountable. In this article, I will provide an overview of the concept of open data and how we can use it to unlock innovation and drive fair competition in the banking sector.
Many of us make often make the mistake of thinking that open data is only about a transparent and accountable government. Open data is more than just about policing in government, but connecting citizens to bureaucracies, sharing data and creating a real participatory democracy. Open data is also about creating government, using government data to create innovative services that enhances service delivery.
Although the concept of open data is still in its infant stages in many developing countries, research we have done here in Namibia and that done by others in different parts of the world shows that open data has the potential to unlock important economic and social values if advance analytics is applied on the data, thus transforming the data into useful services and or solutions for citizens to utilise.
Furthermore, open data can also be used as an instrument to break down information gaps across sectors, according to McKinsey. Thus, enable companies to share best practice examples and benchmarks therefore increases productivity in these firms. On a practical level, for example banks in Namibia can share information amongst themselves in order to effectively manage financial loses. Additionally, banks can share their customer data to enable customers to compare the different products offered to them by the banks.
The sharing of information about products and customer transactions will not only improve service comparison but also drive the much-needed competition within the banking sector. Moreover, it will also enable innovators and technology start-up firms to use this data to attract new clients efficiently. Despite the benefits of sharing such information, there will always be resistance from big banks, with hundred thousand of customers and who have accumulated a wealth of data, which gives these big banks-especially those with big brothers in South Africa-a competitive edge over small and start-up banks.
Another challenge facing information sharing, especially in the financial sector, is the issue of information security. However, using a secure application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow two systems to interact with each other. We can ensure that data and information is securely shared. The use of APIs will also enable financial technology firms and innovators to make use of customers’ bank data on their behalf and with their permission in innovative and helpful ways. For example, through the APIs customers can make use of their mobile phones, which enables them to clearly see how much money they spend on commodities, and how their spending on commodities fluctuates through the course of a month or year.
Although many people are sceptical about sharing their personal data especially those pertaining to financial data with third parties, it is important to note that no individual data will be shared with third parties without the customer’s explicit consent. And more over, every shared data needs to be protected using robust validity checks.
It is important for consumer of banking services and products to be reminded that making more banking data available in the open will easily enable people to shop for products tailored to their needs and allow them to get the best deals while shopping. According to a working banking group in the United Kingdom, opening up data would enable consumers to compare bank products and services that have been tailored to suit their individual needs, by giving third-party price comparison services permission to access their data.
An open banking standard will be an essential intervention in our banking sector at this particular point in time,