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The Business Case for Open Data

Martin Tisne - June 23, 2014 in Business, Open Data

Martin Tisné, Omidyar Network’s director, policy (UK) and Nicholas Gruen, economist and CEO of Lateral Economics, last week unveiled in Canberra the report, Open for Business. It is the first study to quantify and illustrate the potential of Open Data to help achieve the G20’s economic growth target. Martin makes the economic case for open data below.

Manhattan

The G20 and Open Data: Open for Business

Open data cuts across a number of this year’s G20 priorities and could achieve more than half of the G20’s 2% growth target.

The business case for open data

Economic analysis has confirmed the significant contribution to economic growth and productivity achievable through an open data agenda. Governments, the private sector, individuals and communities all stand to benefit from the innovation and information that will inform investment, drive the creation of new industries, and inform decision making and research. To mark a step change in the way valuable information is created and reused, the G20 should release information as open data.

In May 2014, Omidyar Network commissioned Lateral Economics to undertake economic analysis on the potential of open data to support the G20’s 2% growth target and illustrate how an open data agenda can make a significant contribution to economic growth and productivity. Combining all G20 economies, output could increase by USD 13 trillion cumulatively over the next five years. Implementation of open data policies would thus boost cumulative G20 GDP by around 1.1 percentage points (almost 55%) of the G20’s 2% growth target over five years.

Recommendations

Importantly, open data cuts across a number of this year’s G20 priorities: attracting private infrastructure investment, creating jobs and lifting participation, strengthening tax systems and fighting corruption. This memo suggests an open data thread that runs across all G20 priorities. The more data is opened, the more it can be used, reused, repurposed and built on—in combination with other data—for everyone’s benefit.

We call on G20 economies to sign up to the Open Data Charter.

The G20 should ensure that data released by G20 working groups and themes is in line with agreed open data standards. This will lead to more accountable, efficient, effective governments who are going further to expose inadequacy, fight corruption and spur innovation.

Data is a national resource and open data is a ‘win-win’ policy. It is about making more of existing resources. We know that the cost of opening data is smaller than the economic returns, which could be significant. Methods to respect privacy concerns must be taken into account. If this is done, as the public and private sector share of information grows, there will be increasing positive returns.

The G20 opportunity

This November, leaders of the G20 Member States will meet in Australia to drive forward commitments made in the St Petersburg G20 Leaders Declaration last September and to make firm progress on stimulating growth. Actions across the G20 will include increasing investment, lifting employment and participation, enhancing trade and promoting competition.

The resulting ‘Brisbane Action Plan’ will encapsulate all of these commitments with the aim of raising the level of G20 output by at least 2% above the currently projected level over the next five years. There are major opportunities for cooperative and collective action by G20 governments.

Governments should intensify the release of existing public sector data – both government and publicly funded research data. But much more can be done to promote open data than simply releasing more government data. In appropriate circumstances, governments can mandate public disclosure of private sector data (e.g. in corporate financial reporting).

Recommendations for action

  • G20 governments should adopt the principles of the Open Data Charter to encourage the building of stronger, more interconnected societies that better meet the needs of our citizens and allow innovation and prosperity to flourish.
  • G20 governments should adopt specific open data targets under each G20 theme, as illustrated below, such as releasing open data related to beneficial owners of companies, as well revenues from extractive industries
  • G20 governments should consider harmonizing licensing regimes across the G20
  • G20 governments should adopt metrics for measuring the quantity and quality of open data publication, e.g. using the Open Data Institute’s Open Data Certificates as a bottom-up mechanism for driving the adoption of common standards.

Illustrative G20 examples

Fiscal and monetary policy

Governments possess rich real time data that is not open or accessed by government macro-economic managers. G20 governments should:

  • Open up models that lie behind economic forecasts and help assess alternative policy settings;
  • Publish spending and contractual data to enable comparative shopping by government between government suppliers.

Anti corruption

Open data may directly contribute to reduced corruption by increasing the likelihood corruption will be detected. G20 governments should:

  • Release open data related to beneficial owners of companies as well as revenues from extractive industries,
  • Collaborate on harmonised technical standards that permit the tracing of international money flows – including the tracing of beneficial owners of commercial entities, and the comparison and reconciliation of transactions across borders.

Trade

Obtaining and using trade data from multiple jurisdictions is difficult. Access fees, specific licenses, and non-machine readable formats all involve large transaction costs. G20 governments should:

  • Harmonise open data policies related to trade data.
  • Use standard trade schema and formats.

Employment

Higher quality information on employment conditions would facilitate better matching of employees to organizations, producing greater job-satisfaction and improved productivity. G20 governments should:

  • Open up centralised job vacancy registers to provide new mechanisms for people to find jobs.
  • Provide open statistical information about the demand for skills in particular areas to help those supporting training and education to hone their offerings.

Energy

Open data will help reduce the cost of energy supply and improve energy efficiency. G20 governments should:

  • Provide incentives for energy companies to publish open data from consumers and suppliers to enable cost savings through optimizing energy plans.
  • Release energy performance certifications for buildings
  • Publish real-time energy consumption for government buildings.

Infrastructure

Current infrastructure asset information is fragmented and inefficient. Exposing current asset data would be a significant first step in understanding gaps and providing new insights. G20 governments should:

  • Publish open data on governments’ infrastructure assets and plans to better understand infrastructure gaps, enable greater efficiency and insights in infrastructure development and use and analyse cost/benefits.
  • Publish open infrastructure data, including contracts via Open Contracting Partnership, in a consistent and harmonised way across G20 countries.

Other examples of value to date

  • In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s decision nearly three decades ago to release their data sets to the public resulted in a burst of innovations — including forecasts, mobile applications, websites, research – and a multi-billion dollar weather industry.
  • Open government data in the EU would increase business activity by €40Bn. Indirect benefits (people using data driven services) total up to €140Bn a year[1].
  • Mckinsey research suggests that seven sectors alone could generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value as a result of open data.
  • Releasing as open data in Denmark in 2002 gave €62m benefits 2005-2009 against €2m cost. ROI in 2010: €14m benefit against €0.2m cost[2].
  • Open data exposed C$3.2Bn misuse of charitable status in tax code in Canada[3].
  • Over £200m/year could have been saved by the NHS from the publication of open data on just one class of prescription drugs[4].

[1] https://www.ereg-association.eu/actualities/archive.php?action=show_article&news_id=167

[2] http://www.adresse-info.dk/Portals/2/Benefit/Value_Assessment_Danish_Address_Data_UK_2010-07-07b.pdf

[3] http://eaves.ca/2010/04/14/case-study-open-data-and-the-public-purse/

[4] http://theodi.org/news/prescription-savings-worth-millions-identified-odi-incubated-company

The Open Knowledge Foundation urges the UK Government to stop secret corporate lobbying

Jonathan Gray - December 13, 2013 in Business, Campaigning, Featured, Legal, Open Government Data, Policy

The Open Knowledge Foundation has joined the members of the UK OGP civil society network in signing an open letter which calls on the Government to put an end to secret corporate lobbying.

In its current form the government’s proposed lobbying bill (which is currently going through parliament) will let the vast majority of corporate lobbyists off the hook from being obliged to say who they’re meeting, what decisions they are seeking to influence and how much they are spending. Here are our five reasons why we think this needs to change. If you agree with us, then please sign and share the petition!.

The letter urges Ministers to redraft the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trades Union Administration Bill in order to enable proper public scrutiny of lobbying activity in the UK. Please share this letter (copied below) widely and sign the petition to call on the Government to put a stop to secret lobbying.

The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP Cabinet Office 70 Whitehall London SW1A 2AS

Cc: Deputy Prime Minister 12 December 2013

Dear Mr Maude and Mr Lansley,

Response to Mr Maude’s letter of 1 November 2013 to the UK OGP civil society network re the Government’s commitment to lobbying transparency

As campaigners for greater openness in decision making, we applauded the Coalition commitment in May 2010 to ‘regulate lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists and ensuring greater transparency’. However, we are extremely concerned that the current plans, in Part 1 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trades Union Administration Bill, will fail to deliver the transparency promised. The proposed register is not fit-for-purpose. In the short time the Government has allowed for debate on the bill, it has been heavily criticised by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee and Members of Parliament, as well as representatives of the consultancy industry and a wide range of civil society groups.

We urge you to redraft Part 1 of the Bill to:

  • broaden the definition of lobbyist to include all third party consultants and in-house lobbyists, whether corporate, union or charity;
  • extend the definition to include lobbying of mid-ranking civil servants and special advisors; and
  • introduce fuller disclosure requirements to include the target, topic and estimated cost of lobbying activity.

Central to our concerns is the narrow definition of lobbyist. As drafted, the Bill excludes at least eighty per cent of the industry, notably in-house lobbyists. It will also exclude most key consultant lobbyists through a significant loophole: those who in the course of their lobbying do not make contact with Ministers and Permanent Secretaries will not be required to register. This, as lobbyists and the lobbied well know, is the majority of lobbying activity. The justification for such a narrow definition does not stand up to scrutiny. The Government has defined the problem as a lack of transparency about who an agency is representing when it meets with a Minister. Official meeting lists reveal that this would apply to only a handful of meetings. As many in Parliament have pointed out, if this is a genuine problem, it would be better solved with improved disclosure from Ministers.

Of equal concern to us is the lack of any meaningful information on lobbying activity to be included in the proposed register. It would require lobbyists merely to register their clients, but reveal nothing of their interaction with government (i.e. whom they are lobbying, and what they are seeking to influence). This information is essential if the government is to realise its laudable aim through the register of ‘increasing public accountability and public trust in the UK system of government and improving the efficiency of government policy outcomes’. Fuller disclosure would also bring the UK in line with international standards.

The fundamental purpose of introducing a register of lobbyists is to allow the public to examine and understand the activities of lobbyists, to improve government accountability and ultimately to rebuild public trust. It is imperative to have in mind the widely held public perception of how decisions are taken by government, a view summed up by David Cameron as ‘a cosy club at the top making decisions in its own interest’. This lack of trust must be of serious concern to Government. Proper disclosure rules for lobbyists would go a long way to dispel this perception. The reality of lobbying in the UK, which would be revealed in a robust register of lobbyists, would be far more mundane than is popularly imagined. A refusal to introduce genuine transparency, however, would only reinforce the perception that public scrutiny is something politicians would rather avoid.

The shortcomings of the current Bill are all the more surprising considering the leadership you have shown through the Open Government Partnership and your vocal support for greater transparency. The current proposals threaten to undermine not only your ambition to be ‘the most open and transparent government in the world’, but also detract from the OGP initiative. Civil society groups long ago identified a robust register as a key priority for the Partnership, yet we encountered a surprising reluctance from some Cabinet Office officials to engage with us during the development of the proposals. The result is a register that is wholly inadequate.

The Coalition rightly identified ‘secret’ lobbying as an issue of public concern, one which ‘goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics’. ‘We can’t go on like this,’ said David Cameron. We urge you to now fulfil your commitment with a proper register which will allow public scrutiny of lobbying activity in the UK.

Yours sincerely,

Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy
Dr Andy Williamson FRSA, Founder, FutureDigital & Chair, Ivo.org Anne Thurston, Director, International Records Management Trust Anthony Zacharzewski, democracy campaigner Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns, Global Witness Graham Gordon, Head of Public Policy, CAFOD Jonathan Gray, Director of Policy, The Open Knowledge Foundation Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information Miles Litvinoff, Coordinator, Publish What You Pay UK Simon Burall, Director, Involve Tamasin Cave, Director, Spinwatch Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

Open Data Training at the Open Knowledge Foundation

Laura James - September 26, 2013 in Business, CKAN, Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation, Our Work, School of Data, Technical, Training

We’re delighted to announce today the launch of a new portfolio of open data training programs.

For many years the Open Knowledge Foundation has been working — both formally and informally — with governments, civil society organisations and others to provide this kind of advice and training. Today marks the first time we’ve brought it all together in one place with a clear structure.

These training programs are designed for two main groups of people interested in open data:

  1. Those within government and other organisations seeking a short introduction to open data – what it is, why to “do” open data, what the challenges are, and how to get started with an open data project or policy.

  2. The growing group of those specialising in open data, perhaps as policy experts, open data program managers, technology specialists, and so on, generally within government or other organisations. Here we offer more in-depth training including detailed material on how to run an open data program or project, and also a technical course for those deploying or maintaining open data portals.

Our training programs are designed and delivered by our team of open data experts with many years of experience creating, maintaining and supporting open data projects around the world.

Please contact us for details on any of the these courses, or if you’d be interested in discussing a custom program tailored to your needs.

Our Open Data Training Programs

Open Data Introduction

Who is this for?

This course is a short introduction to open data for anyone and is perfectly suited to teams from diverse functions across organisations who are thinking about or adopting open data for the first time.

Topics covered

Everything you need to understand and start working in this exciting new area: what is open data, why should institutions open data, what are the benefits and opportunities to doing so, and of course how you can get started with an open data policy or project.

This is a one day course to help you and your team get started with open data.

Photo by Victor1558

Administrative Open Data Management

Who is this for?

Those specialising in open data, whether as policy experts, open data program managers and similar roles in government, civil service, and other organisations. This course is specifically for non-technical staff who are responsible for managing Open Data programs in their organisation. Such activities typically include implementing an Open Data strategy, designing/launching an Open Data portal, coordinating publication processes, preparing data for publication, and fostering data re-use.

Topics covered

Basics of Open Data (legal, managerial, technical); Success factors for the design and execution of an Open Data program; Overview of the technology landscape; Success factors for community re-use.

Open Data Portal Technology

Who is this for?

Those specializing in open data, whether as software or data experts, and open data delivery managers and similar roles in government, civil service, and other organisations. Technical staff who are responsible for maintaining or running an enterprise Open Data portal. Such activities typically include deployment, system administration and hosting, site theming, development of custom extensions and applications, ETL procedures, data conversions, data life-cycle management.

Topics covered

Basics of Open Data, publication process, and technology landscape; architecture and core functionality of a modern Open Data Management System (CKAN used as example). Deployment, administration and customisation; deploying extensions; integration; geospatial and other special capabilities; engaging with the CKAN community.

Photo by Victor1558

Custom training

We can offer training programs tailored to your specific needs, for your organisation, data domain, or locale. Get in touch today to discuss your requirements!

Working with data

We also run the School of Data, which helps civil society organisations, journalists and citizens learn the skills they need to use data effectively, through both online and in-person “learning through doing” workshops. The School of Data runs data-driven investigations and explorations, and data clinics and workshops from “What is Data” up to advanced visualisation and data handling. As well as general training and materials, we offer topic-specific and custom courses and workshops. Please contact schoolofdata@okfn.org to find out more.

As with all of our work, all relevant materials will be openly licensed, and we encourage others (in the global Open Knowledge Foundation network and beyond) to use and build on them.

9 models to scale open data – past, present and future

Francis Irving - July 18, 2013 in Business, Featured, Ideas and musings, Open Data

Golden spiral, by Kakapo31 CC-BY-NC-SA

The possibilities of open data have been enthralling us for 10 years.

I came to it through wanting to make Government really usable, to build sites like TheyWorkForYou.

But that excitement isn’t what matters in the end.

What matters is scale – which organisational structures will make this movement explode?

Whether by creating self-growing volunteer communities, or by generating flows of money.

This post quickly and provocatively goes through some that haven’t worked (yet!) and some that have.

Ones that are working now

1) Form a community to enter in new data. Open Street Map and MusicBrainz are two big examples. It works as the community is the originator of the data. That said, neither has dominated its industry as much as I thought they would have by now.

2) Sell tools to an upstream generator of open data. This is what CKAN does for central Governments (and the new ScraperWiki CKAN tool helps with). It’s what mySociety does, when selling FixMyStreet installs to local councils, thereby publishing their potholes as RSS feeds.

3) Use open data (quietly). Every organisation does this and never talks about it. It’s key to quite old data resellers like Bloomberg. It is what most of ScraperWiki’s professional services customers ask us to do. The value to society is enormous and invisible. The big flaw is that it doesn’t help scale supply of open data.

4) Sell tools to downstream users. This isn’t necessarily open data specific – existing software like spreadsheets and Business Intelligence can be used with open or closed data. Lots of open data is on the web, so tools like the new ScraperWiki which work well with web data are particularly suited to it.

Ones that haven’t worked

5) Collaborative curation ScraperWiki started as an audacious attempt to create an open data curation community, based on editing scraping code in a wiki. In its original form (now called ScraperWiki Classic) this didn’t scale. Here are some reasons, in terms of open data models, why it didn’t.

a. It wasn’t upstream. Whatever provenance you give, people trust data most that they get it straight from its source. This can also be a partial upstream - for example supplementing scraped data with new data manually gathered by telephone.

b. It isn’t in private. Although in theory there’s lots to gain by wrangling commodity data together in public, it goes against the instincts of most organisations.

c. There’s not enough existing culture. The free software movement built a rich culture of collaboration, ready to be exploited some 15 years in by the open source movement, and 25 years later by tools like Github. With a few exceptions, notably OpenCorporates, there aren’t yet open data curation projects.

6) General purpose data marketplaces, particularly ones that are mainly reusing open data, haven’t taken off. They might do one day, however I think they need well-adopted higher level standards for data formatting and syncing first (perhaps something like dat, perhaps something based on CSV files).

Ones I expect more of in the future

These are quite exciting models which I expect to see a lot more of.

7) Give labour/money to upstream to help them create better data. This is quite new. The only, and most excellent, example of it is the UK’s National Archive curating the Statute Law Database. They do the work with the help of staff seconded from commercial legal publishers and other parts of Government.

It’s clever because it generates money for upstream, which people trust the most, and which has the most ability to improve data quality.

8) Viral open data licensing. MySQL made lots of money this way, offering proprietary dual licenses of GPLd software to embedded systems makers. In data this could use OKFN’s Open Database License, and organisations would pay when they wanted to mix the open data with their own closed data. I don’t know anyone actively using it, although Chris Taggart from OpenCorporates mentioned this model to me years ago.

9) Corporations release data for strategic advantage. Companies are starting to release their own data for strategic gain. This is very new. Expect more of it.

What have I missed? What models do you see that will scale Open Data, and bring its benefits to billions?

And so corporations begin to open data…

Francis Irving - July 27, 2011 in Business, Open Data

The following post is by Francis Irving, CEO of ScraperWiki.

Now it seems almost normal that red in tooth and claw competitors, like Microsoft and Google, are both major contributors to the latest version of a popular open source operating system kernel.

Businesses are gradually realising they can share the costs of anything based on intellectual property which isn’t key to their business advantage. For example, this year Facebook opened up the hardware designs of their data centres.

Governments are struggling forwards and backwards to open up data about their work, ultimately to gain similar efficiencies and strategic advantages.

What about companies opening data?

On the right is Hannah Jones. She heads up Nike’s Sustainable Business and Innovation group. Yes, the trainer company.

She’s backed in what she does by Nike’s seemingly very forward thinking CEO, Mark Parker. He previously set up GreenXchange, for better sharing patents related to the environment (detailed writeup, scraped list of all the patents).

Nike have a surprisingly long history of releasing data. Back in 2000, they started publishing a list of all their contracted factories (scraped list by Selena Deckelmann) and related audit information. The aim? To improve their factory working conditions, both by improved scrutiny of Nike’s own measurement systems, and by enabling direct on the ground inspection and campaigning by activists.

Recently Nike have shifted it up a gear. They’re lucky to be based in Portland in the US, where there is a rampant community of open data activists. Following a strange story of an advertising agency, a sort of startup incubator and a hack day, back in April Nike started advertising to recruit a “Code for a Better World Fellow”.

Anyone reading this blog will find the description in the job advert strangely alluring.

The ideal candidate will be part developer/programmer, part researcher, part designer, part business analyst. He or she will have demonstrated expert experience with databases, programming in multiple languages, in visual design and with statistics. He or she will have an understanding of the existing open data communities and networks of visual designers and researchers who love data.

 

Why do they want this person? You can piece the broad picture, but not the details, together from the job advert and an article in Forbes.

They’re terrified.

Not terrified of bad PR due to human rights violations like in the 1990s (“Nike suffered from these blows, losing contracts and its good rapport with many consumers“).

Terrified that there won’t be enough water to grow cheap cotton. Terrified that oil prices will continue to shoot up, and they won’t be able to afford international shipping. Terrified that the delicate, beautiful-if-flawed civilisation that we’ve built won’t last in a form where enough people can afford to take part in organised, well equipped sport.

Some of those problems can only be fixed by changing entire supply chains. For example, someone told me that cotton recycling will only work if all their competitors, with whom they share upstream factories, also change to it. Doing that well requires sharing data, and helping others know your data about the scale of the difficulties.

Some of those problems can only be fixed by the invention of new products and services. Startups radically disrupting things – startups that will be more likely the more people understand Nike’s problems.

They want to release data to get:

Disruptive, radical, jaw-dropping innovation. Innovation we cannot imagine. That kind of innovation is not going to come only from within.

 

That quote is from the job advert again.

Unfortunately the bad news is that Nike have made their hire, so you can’t apply for it. The good people at Code for America helped them do their recruitment.

Who have they hired?

It’s barely leaked out onto the Internet (you can spot it in here, an announcement of an event on the 6th August that you must go to if you are in San Francisco). So, dear reader of this blog post, you’re the first to know.

Ward Cunningham.

You might recognise the name, he invented the wiki.

Open data research at Aalto University Business School

Theodora Middleton - July 8, 2011 in Business, External, Open Data

The following guest post is by Yulia Tammisto, from the Open Service Innovation Observatory at the Aalto University School of Economics, Finland.

A few months ago, myself and my colleague Dr. Juho Lindman at the Aalto University School of Economics started to explore open data academically. We are particularly interested in the business applications and economic potential of open data. So far we have done a small round of interviews in Finland with business and non-profit sector employees, and have written a couple of conference papers about the results. Interestingly, we found out that open data seemed to have a lot in common with open source from a research perspective. Now we are trying to interpret and use these similarities to better understand the phenomenon of open data and the interplay between these two concepts. We looked into open data-related services offered on the Finnish market, and tried to understand how open data-related service providers operate in order to draw a generic business model. In this process, we came to the understanding that there is no common meaning of open data shared by the different players on the market. We tried to embrace the various perceptions, and build some classification of existing meanings that industry assigns to the term “open data”.

In the future we plan to focus on developing a better understanding of what open data is in a business context and for business users, exploring the economic benefits of open data application and new business models based on open data.

None of our papers are published yet (as it takes quite a while in academia), but I am happy to share and discuss our research – just drop me a line at yulia.tammisto[at]aalto[dot]fi

It would be particularly interesting to hear about similar academic studies or projects – maybe we could join forces and make something great together!

Sustaining open data business

jwalsh - May 22, 2011 in Bibliographic, Business, Open Access, Open Data

Jo Walsh, who works as a project manager at EDINA and sits on the Open Knowledge Foundation board, writes:

These thoughts on sustaining open data business were provoked by ORCID, a not-for-profit business set up by a group of large academic publishers and a few leading universities. Its aim is to provide a central directory of researchers, with profiles describing them.

ORCID is committing to provide open source software but not necessarily open data – offering some limited “non-commercial” activity of the service. Researchers can open their data by “claiming” it but what volume of them are going to do that? Do many more than 15% of academics publish their work in their local open access institutional repository?

I want to illustrate that it is perfectly possible, if not necessary, to support a business publishing open data. Strategies for successful open data companies:

  • Charge for quality – as geonames.org offer a cleaned up better authoritative version of a somewhat crowdsourced database
  • Charge for high volume – as SimpleGeo offer 10K per day calls to the service and charge a small fee after that.
  • Charge for private data storage – as Talis offer free triplestores for linked open data, and charge for a private data service.
  • Charge for analytical capacity – Fortius One offer the free GeoCommons web map making service and charge for the GeoIQ analysis package.

Of course one can always do consultancy and custom development to cover costs. Establishing a namespace, becoming a reference point for others; geoname linked data is used because it is widely used, because it arrived early in the domain.

In a survey of potential users, the most sizeable number of ORCID prospective users thought the data would only really be useful as open data. Charging for institutional access and sponsorship are seen as ways to sustain it. Yet there plenty of ways to sustain open data business, for-profit or not or in between. We might yet get a system that really serves academic publication rather than markets to it.

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