What Is Open Data

We’re taking a look at another big movement in the information age: the open data initiative. Not sure what open data is all about? Join in as we ask what is open data and begin thinking about its usage.

What is Open Data: A Definition

Open data is information that is free for anyone to use and share. No person or company owns a license to it. The crux of the open data movement is about making sure that information is not only open for anyone to use, but also accessible.

This means that data has to be available through some public source. One example is a government website. It also has to be in a file format that doesn’t require special software for viewing.

Why the Push for Open Data?

Now that public information isn’t being kept in paper records, there is a strong push for making sure that information can be put to use. Pushing government agencies, researchers, and others to create ways that all of us can access records means that records aren’t just kept, but can add to public knowledge. Open access to government data can mean more transparency. Sharing research can mean more progress. It can mean new ways for private companies to provide services that the public needs and wants.

Example Sources

So where can we find open data right now? There are a ton of places that are putting together open databases.

As you would expect, there is a lot of government data being made available. Everything from lists of local farmers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to tax statistics by the IRS.

There are international organizations like The World Bank taking part in the open data initiative, including its Climate Change Knowledge Portal. Nonprofits also do a lot of work pulling together public information. For example, Checkmyschool.org collects and updates data on schools in Philippines, including “enroll[l]ment, classrooms, seats, textbooks, budget, [and] achievement test results.” There are also community-built platforms, like Open Street Map which gathers user-identified data to create an open data map.

Challenges for the Open Data Initiative

Its usage depends on the data being available and up-to-date. As more industries, government bodies, and third-party resources create systems for easily uploading and updating data, open data will begin to open new doors.

The movement is growing. Figshare’s “The State of Open Data Report” showed that in 2016, 90% of global researchers who had not previously openly shared their data were considering sharing it in the future. Its 2017 report shows that 76% of global researchers have made at least some effort to openly share information.

As the amount of open data increases, how will open data be used in modern industries? Join in for our next several posts as we take a closer look.


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