“Data interpretation needs to be standardised in order to create new solutions”
Joan Ramon Pujol is the Chief Data Officer for Banco Sabadell. With over 20 years’ experience in the technology and data environment, he believes that it is essential to set down measures for standardising data interpretation in order to create new solutions. He also emphasises the importance of strengthening data security and transparency and allowing data to be accessed in order to construct a more complete picture of the prevailing situation.
How is Big Data different from Open Data?
Big Data refers to both data itself and the capabilities of processing such data. It isn’t an end in and of itself, but rather a means of achieving other ends: to better understand customers, improve management and generally have the best possible information available in order to make appropriate decisions.
Open Data is part of the open movement – which includes open source, open software - it is a dichotomy between data ownership and the opening of data.
What is the current situation of Open Data on a global scale?
There are many Open Data initiatives, particularly in the Public Administration sector. The private sector is starting to use open data, but this use is not yet widespread. In this context, Spain ahead of other EU countries, both in terms of the maturity of its open data initiatives and in terms of the extent to which such data is used.
Which sector has made the most progress in this field?
In my opinion, the sector that most stands out at the moment is the public administration sector. There have been many new initiatives locally, regionally and also at state-level, even at a pan-regional level, in order to make data more accessible.
What trends do you expect to see?
We are already witnessing an increase in the volume of open data. However, we have yet to witness a trend in terms of the standardisation of the interpretation of such data in order to create new solutions based on the same.
Are there any challenges in this regard?
We need more capabilities, we need people who are both capable of envisioning what needs to be done and of doing what needs to be done. Data is more readily available now, but the number of initiatives in place that make use of such data still needs to grow.
How is Open Data influencing the economy and society?
Its influence is varied; there are well-documented cases in the public domain. One example is the humanitarian crisis caused by Katrina in 2005. It would have been ideal to be able to predict this crisis using data, but this wasn’t possible in this case. Instead, data was used to improve the way in which the situation was handled.
Data can also help us in our day-to-day lives. For example, it can help to improve the infrastructures that are used by all citizens.
How does Open Data drive entrepreneurship?
The connection between the two is very clear. The data is there, what entrepreneurs need to do is to have a clear vision about how they can use such data to contribute to implementing improvements in different sectors, or in different areas of people’s economic as well as non-economic activity.
In reality, open data offers potential for multiple sectors, as each sector views the current situation differently. The thing that will really make a difference is data sharing, the act of connecting the data to obtain a more accurate picture of the prevailing situation.
Are there any projects that particularly stand out?
A while back, the Barcelona City Council began an initiative that made extensive use of public data in order to implement improvements in the city. This is a good example of how the value that is extracted from the data accumulated thanks to citizens is given back to those same citizens through an improved management of infrastructures.
How is Open Data influencing the banking sector?
Banks have been managing internal and external data for a very long time in order to better understand the business and offer an improved service to their customers.
Open Data will enrich this information. We have a lot of relevant data available but I have no doubt that cross checking this data against other sources of data will provide us with a more comprehensive understanding of our customers.
How will customers be affected?
Many new data-based products and services will be made available and as a result, the relationship that customers have with banking will become even more important.
In any case, it is vital to work on data security and transparency in order for customers to be aware at all times of what information we have about them and the way in which we are using it.
Banco Sabadell, together with InnoCells, has created Kelvin Atlas. What does this new portal consist of?
Kelvin Atlas is an Open Data portal that has already achieved a certain degree of maturity. It is a portal that opens a window through which to better understand economic activity in a region over a certain period of time. For consumers, this information is not only relevant but also very useful, and they can therefore make decisions based not on intuition but on data.
Are there any other similar initiatives taking place in the bank?
For the moment, Kelvin Atlas is Banco Sabadell’s first Open Data initiative, but it will not be the last.
What are the key features of Kelvin Atlas so far?
The granularity and up-to-date nature of the data, because it is data that has not expired. It is not data that was generated a long time ago, and therefore we can be confident of its validity. The wealth and temporal depth of the data are also worthy of note, as we can access different time scales and geographies.
The information is anonymous, unified and aggregated in order to fully safeguard the privacy of the people and businesses from which the information has been obtained.
What future developments are planned for the platform?
Its development will be reflected in its maturity. We will probably offer the same data but users of the navigation interfaces will be able to access and use such data to create new data. In other words, data will be accessible via API. Entrepreneurs would also be able to enrich the platform by taking the data, combining it with other data and offering the resulting data as an added value.