Microsoft is hoping to address what it is calling the “data divide” with the Open Data Campaign. The new initiative aims to help organizations across the industry realize the benefits of data.

According to Microsoft, while there has been tremendous growth in data and AI, these technologies are concentrated in just a few companies. For example, 50% of the data generated in online interaction is collected by less than 100 companies. A handful of companies can realize the benefits of data and AI, while the rest of the industry is left behind, Microsoft explained.

“Closing the data divide is a big challenge. But the benefits for organizations of all sizes, and the broader community are significant if we can work together to make progress on open data. We’re committed to making our contribution, and we look forward to working with, and learning from, others so that everyone can realize the benefits of data,” Jennifer Yokoyama, chief IP counsel at Microsoft, wrote in a post.

This new initiative will be carried out in three phases. First, Microsoft will publish principles on how it will handle sharing data with others. By 2022, they plan on launching 20 new collaborations that are based on collaborative data. According to Microsoft, this will include working with organizations that are leading the open data movement, such as the Open Data Institute and The Governance Lab at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering. These new collaborations will focus initially on tackling connectivity challenges, addressing COVID-19, helping cities and governments collaborate on data, and advancing data-driven healthcare. 

Microsoft will also make their social impact initiatives “open by default.” Finally, they will invest in tools, frameworks, and templates that will make it easier to share data. 

Microsoft has laid out five principles it will use to guide this initiative. Data must be open, usable, empowering, secure, and private. Microsoft explained that making data usable is key. “Unless organizations are able to collect and categorize data in a standardized way, they will not be able to aggregate and analyze it in a manner that produces the transformative insights that shared data has the potential to unlock,” Yokoyama wrote.