The concept of open first gained traction in the technology industry with the birth of the free software movement in the 1980s, which evolved into today’s hugely successful open source movement. Open source provides free access to software code in order for anyone to make changes and improvements to the final product.
This ability for huge networks of individuals to pool their collective expertise led to an unparalleled boom in technical and creative innovation.
Open, defined as ‘accessible to all, free from limitations, boundaries or restrictions’, has since been widely adopted across increasingly broad sectors of technology and the digital world.
Open access to what have become the basic building blocks of our society promises to provide incredible benefits to consumers, businesses and the public sector.
Governments realize this and are opening up the data they hold to third parties to enable the creation of services that will better serve their citizens. Businesses realize this and are opening up to their customers, giving them the ability to become true participants in the business rather than just sales targets.
The value of open is also being recognized in an increasing willingness by companies to collaborate and partner with third parties and even their rivals in order to better serve their customers. In fact, companies in all industries are opening dedicated open initiatives. In July 2013, Rolls-Royce launched an open innovation program, joining the likes of Unilever, which launched its own in 2012.
The open philosophy is reaching into all areas of business. The European Commission in June 2013, for instance, in its Digital Agenda for Europe, called for better use of standards in procurement to stop businesses becoming locked in to ICT systems.
The World Wide Web, the backbone of today’s society and economy, was of course founded on a principle of openness that has resulted in the birth of some of the most innovative companies the world has ever seen.
Telefónica itself is also embracing open in various ways that are driving the open web, such as our support of Firefox OS, open data, including a partnership with the Open Data Institute, and open innovation, through initiatives such as our Wayra start-up incubator. The support that Telefónica shows for the Over the Air event itself is also about putting some energy back into the community to support open innovation.
However, we should be under no illusions of the challenges that remain ahead. The open philosophy, despite the enormous benefits it offers all levels of society, is often fighting against a deeply engrained attitude of resistance to free access of information.
The growth of the open Web on mobile for instance, is being held back by a return to closed ecoystems and walled gardens. Consumers are being corralled into proprietary systems, only able to access certain content. Content bought through one service is not transferrable when consumers switch and choice is being dramatically curtailed.
We believe the value of open is worth fighting for. The concept is too important to be become merely a commodity, a truism that is devalued by those without a true commitment to the open philosophy.
#TheOpenAgenda is a cross-industry project collating the views of leading thinkers from across the open movement. It will dig deep into the meaning of open across three key areas: open web, open data and open innovation.
It will discover exactly how the value of open is being delivered in each area to benefit consumers, business, and society, discovering the challenges ahead and how they are being overcome.
The aim of #TheOpenAgenda is to catalyse global debate around the concept of open. Through a series of online and real world events, we will engage stakeholders across multiple industries to employ the very collaborative principles of the open movement to help define and spread the benefits of open.
As a worldwide society we need to debate the value and issues of open – it’s crucial to all our futures.
Join the debate on Twitter using #theopenagenda and @tefdigital – I’d love to hear your thoughts.