According to Francis Maude, Open Data is the raw material for “next industrial revolution”. Now you should obviously take everything politicians say with a large pinch of salt (especially Maude) but despite the political hyperbole, when it comes to data he is onto something.
According to wikipedia, which is considerably more reliable than politicians, Open Data is:
“the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.”
Open Data is slowly having an impact in the world of science  and also in wider society. Initiatives like data.gov in the U.S. and data.gov.uk in England, also known as e-government or government 2.0, have put huge amounts of data in the public domain and there is plenty more data in the pipeline. All of this data makes novel applications possible, like cycling injury maps showing accident black spots, and many others just like it.
To discuss the current status of Open Data in Greater Manchester there were two events last week:
- The Open Data Manchester meetup “24 hour data people”  at the the Manchester Digital Laboratory (“madlab”), which recently made BBC headlines with the DIY bio project
- The Discover Open Data event at the Cornerhouse cinema