The amount of data being collected by departments and agencies mean government services will not be able to implement truly open data strategies, according to Met Office CIO Charles Ewen.
Ewen said the rapidly increasing amount of data being stored by companies and government departments mean it will not be technologically possible able to share all their data in the near future.
During a talk at the Cloud World Forum on Wednesday, he said: “The future will be bigger and bigger data. Right now we’re talking about petabytes, in the near future it will be tens of petabytes, then soon after it’ll be hundreds of petabytes and then we’ll be off into imaginary figure titles.
“We see a future where data has gotten so big the notion of open data and the idea ‘lets share our data with everybody and anybody’ just won’t work. We’re struggling to make it work already and by 2020 the national infrastructure will not exist to shift this stuff [data] around in the way anybody could access and make use of it.”
Ewen added that to deal with the shift he expects many departments and agencies will adapt their processes to become digital curators that are more selective about the data they share, to try and ensure it is useful.
“This isn’t us wrapping our arms around our data and saying you can’t see it. We just don’t see how we can share all this big data in the way you would want it,” he said.
“We see a future where a select number of high-capacity nodes become information brokers and are used to curate and manage data. These curators will be where people bring their problems. That’s the future we see.”
Ewan added that the current expectations around open data are based on misguided views about the capabilities of cloud technology to host and provide access to huge amounts of data.
“The trendy stuff out there claims to be great at everything, but don’t get carried away. We don’t see cloud as anything but capability. We’ve been using appropriate IT and what’s available to deliver our mission services for over 50 to 60 years, and cloud is playing an increasing part of that, but purely for increased capability,” he said.
“It’s just another tool. The important thing is having the skill and knowledge to not just believe vendors but to look and identify the problem and say ‘we have to solve this’.”
The Met Office CIO’s comments follow reports from other government service providers that people’s desire for open data is growing exponentially.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) geography policy and research manager Ian Coady said earlier in June, that web users’ desire for instant access to digital services means they are no longer willing to tolerate registration walls.
Ewen is one of many Met Office executives to warn about the dangers of the cloud. The Met Office’s portfolio technical lead James Tomkins told V3 that the organisation is steering clear of the cloud due to security and cost concerns in July 2013.