Know Your Defaulter, or KYD, launched in mid-2016. The startup’s software spiders crawled through dozens and hundreds of data sources each day – court cases, company filings, credit ratings and defaulter lists put out by banks and financial institutions. It allowed anyone to instantly conduct an online due diligence on a company before entering into any sort of agreement with it. In less than a year, KYD had saved tens, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars for its users by helping them spot companies that were unscrupulous.

Best Trip, a trip planning app that showed real-time road traffic conditions in the top six Indian metro cities was credited with saving millions of commuter hours, vehicle fuel and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in productivity and healthcare costs savings in just the 17 months since its launch in late 2015.

There’s also the story of Compliance Scanner which started in 2014 as Data Watch. After the first year of meandering, trying to find its business purpose, it pivoted into a useful tool that allowed anyone to instantly identify the statutory compliance status of Indian firms on various laws. Regulators, lawyers, consultants, civic-minded citizens and NGOs; all relied on it to spot variances between what a company claimed in public, and what it practiced in private. It was single handedly responsible for dozens of well-known companies being found of falling short of their provident fund (EPFO) obligations.

This is where we must apologize and tell you that none of the above three examples are true.

Know Your Defaulter, Best Trip and Compliance Scanner do not exist.

In fact, these startups cannot exist (and neither can the efficiency they generate) because of the way various Indian governments and regulators have either ignored or actively stymied the “Open Data” initiative.

What is open data?

“Open data and content can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose.”

Data = Innovation Fuel

A 2013 McKinsey research report showed how governments around the world could unlock an additional $3 trillion (yes, that’s right) in economic value merely by enabling open data across seven domains.

To quote from the report: “An estimated $3 trillion in annual economic potential could be unlocked across seven domains. These benefits include increased efficiency, development of new products and services, and consumer surplus (cost savings, convenience, better-quality products). We consider societal benefits, but these are not quantified. For example, we estimate the economic impact of improved education (higher wages), but not the benefits that society derives from having well-educated citizens. We estimate that the potential value would be divided roughly between the United States ($1.1 trillion), Europe ($900 billion) and the rest of the world ($1.7 trillion).”

The seven domains McKinsey identified were education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil & gas, healthcare and consumer finance.