The business intelligence (BI) market has grown tremendously in the twenty-first century resulting from the increased adoption of cloud services, and the growth of data analytics and internet enabled technologies. In 2016, global BI revenues reached $
17.09 billion and are forecasted to reach $
26.88 billion by 2021, a 9.5% increase in 5 years [1
]. Business intelligence refers to a company’s ability to gather, analyze and communicate information for the purpose of making strategic decisions [2
]. It relies on technology and the use of processes and applications to extract and analyze data, which can then be used to obtain consumer insights, identify market opportunities, and create innovative solutions for sustaining competitive advantages in the marketplace. Private companies such as Amazon have used technology and data analysis to create business intelligence that has transformed the retail industry [3
] while the pharmaceutical industry has used it to minimize distribution related problems and identify their most profitable products [4
]. Business intelligence has also been gathered to assist in developing public policy [5
Despite the tremendous growth in business intelligence, the use of open government created content (OGD) by private sector organizations to generate business intelligence is quite limited; mainly due to companies having very little knowledge about the availability of open data [7
] and a lack of insight as to its benefits [8
]. The establishment of the Open Government Directive by the Obama Administration in 2009 [6
], and the Open Government Partnership in 2011 [7
] has required governments to make their data accessible to the public and become more transparent and accountable for their initiatives. Accessibility to OGD provided by government agencies worldwide, enables external stakeholders to use the data to enhance the creation of innovative ideas and products [10
] that can ultimately contribute to economic growth [7
], and generate social value for its citizens [12
]. For example, in the United States, the automotive and trucking industries have recently used OGD to make better informed decisions related to assembly plant productions and rate setting of diesel fuel consumption [13
]. Another international organization has used OGD to assist in underwriting weather insurance for farmers [14
]. A recent study by Jetzek et al. (2014) also highlights how OGD can be used to generate economic and social value through the lens of two dimensions: external stakeholders (private sector) and the public sector (focused mainly on social value). The authors find that the use of OGD drove change in consumer energy consumption and created social value for its citizens [8
Given the benefits but lack of use of OGD to generate business intelligence, we examine how business intelligence can be generated through the use of OGD for the identification of market opportunities and strategy formulation; an area of research that is still in its infancy [15
]. Using a two-industry case study approach (footwear and lumber), we use LDA topic modeling to extract emerging topics in these two industries from OGD, and a data visualization tool (pyLDAVis) to visualize the topics in order to interpret and transform the data into business intelligence. In doing so, we extend research in the field of topic modeling and visualization tools [6
] and answer the call by scholars to use these methods to acquire and visualize information to transform data into business intelligence [17
]. Additionally, we perform an environmental scanning of the environment for the two industries based on the topics identified to validate the usability of the information obtained for identification of market opportunities. The results provide evidence that OGD can be a valuable source of information for private businesses in generating business intelligence and highlight how the use of topic modeling and visualization tools can assist organizations in extracting and analyzing information for the identification of market opportunities, formulating marketing strategies to expand into future markets, and obtain a competitive advantage.
2. Business Intelligence and Open Government Data
Business Intelligence (BI) is a process where information from internal and external sources is collected through the use of a variety of software and fact-based support systems to assist organizations in decision making, strategy formulation, and achieving a competitive advantage [19
]. Organizations use BI to gather information, analyze competitors and predict the behavior of consumers, competitors, suppliers, and markets. The importance of BI has grown exponentially with the availability of big-data and technological advances that have shifted the business intelligence arena from an IT-led system-of-record reporting to business-led agile analytics that assist organizations in formulating strategy [20
]. The big data phenomenon (i.e., volume, variety, and velocity of unstructured and undefined data) has further impacted business intelligence by including fast, predictive, visual analytics and data science [17
]. The result is that BI is now associated with (1) improved value-based decision-making [21
], (2) connections to firm sustainability [22
], and (3) agile analytics [17
The type of information available can be a key element in an organization’s ability to create value, generate business intelligence and formulate strategy. According to Park et al. (2010) the use of publicly available data can be a rich source of information since it provides a wide variety of data ranging from research findings, marketing information, and legal information [19
]. Furthermore, as companies increasingly operate in foreign markets the ability to obtain data that assists in analyzing competitive markets is even more critical. One source of publicly available data that can assist organizations in creating value and generating business intelligence is open government generated data (OGD). The dissemination of open government data (OGD) has been growing since 2011, when governments and civil society advocates came together to form the Open Government Partnership. Over 78 countries and governments have joined this organization that focuses on ensuring governments provide free information in a multitude of areas [23
Today, the government is considered one of the largest creators and collectors of data, with more than one million datasets available to the public by governments worldwide [24
], in a variety of domains [25
] including data governance, education, health, extractive industries (oil, gas and mineral resources), traffic, weather, geographical data, and data on businesses and public sector budgeting [8
]. One of the main benefits of this type of data is that it has already been collected for specific use by governments and has been paid for by taxpayers, thereby mitigating the economic cost that is assumed by private citizens to collect this data. Besides governmental oversight and monitoring of data quality standards, other additional benefits of OGD are the increased public value obtained through citizen participation and empowerment, and improved public relations and citizen attitude towards government [9
]. A few challenges or barriers related to the use of OGD are difficulty for users in processing the information and the usability of the content available, since the information has typically been prepared by governments with a specific goal in mind [28
]. Additionally, in order to adopt usage of OGD at the firm level, organizations need to have the support of top management [14
]. The biggest barrier to the use of OGD however, seems to be the lack of knowledge by private sector organizations regarding the availability of open data [7
] and insight as to its benefits [8
Despite these challenges, OGD offers organizations the potential to unlock new innovative solutions that can incentivize entrepreneurship and generate economic value [8
]. A review of the OGD literature suggests that the use of OGD can generate economic value and drive innovation within societies [28
]. A survey of government employees and business professionals’ use of OGD in Brazil revealed that this type of data promoted greater citizenship involvement [28
]. Other researchers report economic value is generated by reducing costs, adding value to current services and products, generating new products and services and increasing data availability for competitiveness [26
]. A recent study by Jetzek et al. (2014) was the first to use OGD to create economic and social value [8
]. The authors performed a longitudinal six-year qualitative case study of a private company and found that the company was able to achieve a considerable reduction in consumer energy usage over six years by using OGD and a data driven innovation framework.
OGD can also lead to the generation of new and innovative business models and business intelligence. Two case studies exemplify how OGD is being used to create innovative business models in different sectors of the economy [33
]. The Climate Company, based in San Francisco, used weather data along with public satellite data to create a climate platform that assists farmers in making operating and financing decisions, which ultimately affect their decision to underwrite weather insurance for farmers. Using government data on public transportation, Netcetera, a Swiss software company, created a free app called Wemlin that allows users in Switzerland to have precise information on the departure times at particular stops of their public transportation system.
Hughes-Cromwick and Coronado (2019) additionally contend that access to public data is a competitive advantage for existing and new businesses [13
]. They provide examples of how government data can inform business decisions in the automotive and energy industries in the United States. For the automotive industry, they find that auto makers combine OGD with privately generated data to make informed decisions on the production rates at assembly plants and to gain support for the development of autonomous vehicles. Energy consulting companies also use government generated data as a starting point for market analysis. For example, data on diesel fuel consumption and price provided by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) are used for rate setting in the trucking industry. Government data can therefore be seen as a strategic asset for gathering business intelligence and converting that intelligence into potential solutions for economic growth, especially as technological advances occur, and by permitting big data to be accessible by both public and private entities.
6. Discussion and Conclusions
The purpose of our study was twofold: (1) to demonstrate the value of OGD data as a useful source of information for any organization; and (2) highlight the importance of using topic modeling and visualization technologies to extract and visualize data to assist in generating business intelligence. We illustrated how the extraction and visualization of data on lumber and footwear industries can reveal valuable information related to potential market entry opportunities. We also highlighted the usefulness of performing environmental scanning to validate the information extracted. This process permitted us to delve deeper into the various characteristic of each topic and identify differences and similarities between them so as to assess what market opportunities might be available in these countries to help formulate strategic decisions.
Our first step involved obtaining OGD data for the lumber and footwear industries and extracting that data into useful information through the use of LDA for topic modeling and pyLDAVIS for visualization. The result was the identification of the top three countries where the lumber and footwear industries are of prime importance. The tools also highlighted important relevant terms that can be important for identifying opportunities in these two industries. We subsequently used the information obtained to perform an environmental scanning analysis so as to identify potential market opportunities in these industries.
The results revealed that the top three countries associated with lumber were Latvia, Poland, and Estonia. The importance of Latvia in relation to lumber is not surprising given the large percentage of land that is invested in forestry. The high regulation of this industry and the high level of wood exports could be seen as a hindrance to competing in this market or gaining a competitive advantage however, the vast resources and competitive labor force (low cost) available in Latvia could be a motivating factor for consideration in this market. Poland also provides potential opportunities for consideration since its forestry industry is growing, it is the 10th largest producer of lumber worldwide, and has 100% sustainable forestry practices. Poland is currently a primary source of lumber for IKEA but since it is an emerging economy and a low-wage country it presents opportunities for organizations to import this product at a more reasonable cost. Lastly, Estonia’s involvement in high technology to digitalize forest management provides lower cost opportunities and could be an important consideration for competitors to enter the market.
Our findings related to the identification of Ukraine, New Zealand and Mexico as important markets for footwear apparel are quite interesting. All three countries have different market targets and their economies influence the quality of the products offered in footwear. For example, Mexico has become one of the top producers of footwear due to its low labor costs and high technological advances in footwear design. An organization wishing to compete in this industry would want to consider and assess the viability of benefiting from Mexico’s low cost and technological advances. The close proximity to the United States also presents potential opportunities for footwear companies to sell their products to consumers in that region. Ukraine, is an untapped market, given the popularity of footwear among women and the lack of brand name athletic companies doing business in this part of the world. Lastly, New Zealand offers a much more sophisticated market since people are highly educated, and technologically advanced. One advantage of doing business in this market is the flexibility of starting a business there and catering to their sophisticated market. Overall, the exercise of using OGD data and LDA and pyLDAVIS to extract and visualize the data permitted us to identify markets (countries) with potential opportunities to compete in the lumber and footwear industries. Complementing this information with environmental scanning we were able to further examine the advantages and disadvantages of doing business in the three markets identified within each industry. Similarly, private organizations can find value in using OGD and apply these topic mining and visualization tools to help them assess the viability of doing business in various markets and gaining a competitive advantage.
This study makes important contributions to the open government data literature by examining the value that OGD can provide to private organizations; an area of research that is relatively unexplored. Prior studies have mainly focused on how government agencies share open data and its societal impact on citizens and other public entities [15
]. Private organizations are distinct from citizens and public entities in that their primary focus is on generating profit, therefore the value and use of OGD differs because they are not typically concerned with societal issues. Rather, they view OGD from the perspective of how it can add value to their organization and assist them in achieving their financial and strategic objectives [14
]. Our study extends research in this area by demonstrating the usefulness of OGD to private organizations for identifying market opportunities in various areas of business so that they may generate a competitive advantage and enhance profitability.
Jetzek et al. (2014) proposed an OGD value generation framework (see pg. 106) to highlight how OGD can be used to generate economic (monetary) and social value (improvement in the lives of citizens and society). The dimensions of the model included (1) transparency of government; (2) citizen participation/collaboration; (3) efficiency/effectiveness; and (4) innovation [8
]. They contended that each of these four dimensions had the ability to generate a combination of social and economic value. Applying this framework to our study, we discuss the value of the use of OGD to generate business intelligence for the purpose of identifying competitive markets.
Our study reveals that the use of OGD can assist businesses in obtaining information on resources, technology, and industry competitors. This information is of economic value for businesses as it permits them to complement their in-house capabilities with additional BI as well as understand potential markets and build new data-driven products. The transparency of the information will be a key driver to generate value so governments will need to ensure that the information made available is transparent, accurate and that it reduces information asymmetry [8
]. Improved transparency permits a more equitable allocation of resources which leads to the creation of economic and social value.
The use of OGD by organizations and citizens can also lead to efficiency and improvement in utilization of resources as well as improved benefits to citizens. Our study indicates that private companies can use the information obtained to delve into other market opportunities by taking advantage of resources that are lower in cost and maximize economic value. This efficiency also leads to social value since citizens are able to benefit from the improved products at more reasonable prices, thereby increasing their quality of life. The use of OGD also permits citizens to monitor government activities and public budget expenditures and how it impacts them, in addition to reducing the likelihood of corruption occurring at the government level.
OGD can also be a robust driver of economic growth through business innovation, business creation and efficiency. Organizations can gain more precise information on customer preferences, make export/import or plant location and expansion decisions, and identify areas of innovation and future opportunities. For example, businesses can build new innovative services and applications at minimal cost, similar to the two cases exemplified in Section 2
of the paper. The free use of open data can also be a driver for change and social technological advances. By gaining access to OGD, participants can provide opinion on public policy, and provide ideas and solutions to local and government issues. This permits individuals to voice their opinions and contribute to the generation of new ideas as well as create resources through the sharing of information. This leads to economic value for businesses as they are able to assist in solving societal issues while generating a profit.
Although the value of government data is difficult to measure, the ability to access OGD can also provide a competitive advantage for businesses since OGD can be used to supplement internal data and assist in making strategic decisions [7
]. One caveat though is that the success of using OGD is dependent on organizations having in-house capabilities and resources such as knowledge, skills, and the ability to combine internal and external resources. Information Technology (IT) (i.e., internet connection, cloud computing, processing, linking and other tools); Information and Data (i.e., database with open data sets, company database, company products and services); and Human Resources (i.e., computer skills, finding and accessing open data, tool selection and use, data and result interpretation, stakeholder network management) are all critical organizational resources that are necessary for making sense of government data. Without one of these three organizational resource categories it becomes more difficult to gain unique competitive benefits and gain a competitive advantage through OGD. The ability to use OGD and to integrate it into a firm’s existing value proposition will therefore be vital to sustaining a competitive advantage [91
This study has valuable implications for managerial practices, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as the marketplace shifts towards a more open interconnected world and managers are required to rethink how business intelligence is generated and appropriated for their organization [8
]. The amount of data created by the public sector is immense and is both freely available and of low cost. SMEs who are not able to invest in expensive business intelligence systems will find OGD a valuable source of data and information. Use of this data can serve as a starting point for SMEs to create added value, and identify new innovative business models. We recognize that government data is generated by the public sector for specific objectives [8
], nevertheless as long as organizations take this into consideration when using the data, the open network and easy accessibility of this data source presents extensive opportunities for small businesses.
We also highlight the use of LDA and pyLDAVIS methodology as practical, affordable and easy to apply methods for generating business intelligence in various business contexts. By visualizing data, it is possible to discover trends and associations between concepts, which can provide a greater understanding of the ideas or concepts being explored [24
]. Additionally, it can help organizations answer questions such as: how can this data be used to enter or expand into new markets? How can it assist in creating innovative products? Ultimately, the use of these methods can be used to bring about new innovative solutions of economic value, monitor their competitive environment, and assist strategic management in formulating decisions at a minimal cost to the organization.
We recognize our study is not without its limitations. First, we examined two specific industries within the consumer products market therefore the findings are not generalizable to other contexts. Additionally, we used only one genre of text-mining techniques, LDA and pyLDAVis, to extract terms from an open source government data site for the purpose of obtaining business intelligence. Future open source data gathering studies can further advance the field of open source intelligence by comparing different types of techniques and integrating multiple, dynamic data sources, including time-varying covariates and the combination of exploratory topic models with powerful predictive marketing models [18
]. Scholars could also explore and compare how the use of OGD varies among different countries and affects their likelihood of adopting OGD. Lastly, triangulating the methodology, such as including a survey to assess the external validity of the text-mining and visualization outcomes, would allow the comparison of the results to data elicited from a survey-based approach [36