What is Open Data

Open data is a movement, and it is spreading quickly. Across the country, communities are recognizing the economic, social, and civic value of making public data open and accessible for broad consumption.

The Basics

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s #OpenData video provides a great primer on the topic and addresses many frequently asked questions.

Open Data Principles

The concept of open data relies on these principles, defined by The White House’s Project Open Data:

  • Public. Governments and other data producers must adopt a presumption in favor of openness to the extent permitted by law and subject to privacy, confidentiality, security, or other valid restrictions.
  • Accessible. Open data are made available in convenient, modifiable, and open formats that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched. Formats should be machine-readable (i.e., data are reasonably structured to allow automated processing). Machine-readability formats make it easy for data translators (journalists, web developers, civic hackers, etc.) to produce user-friendly mobile and web applications.
  • Described. Open data are described fully so that consumers of the data have sufficient information to understand their strengths, weaknesses, analytical limitations, security requirements, as well as how to process them.
  • Reusable. Open data are made available under an open license that places no restrictions on their use.
  • Complete. Open data are published in primary forms (i.e., as collected at the source), with the finest possible level of granularity that is practicable and permitted by law and other requirements. Derived or aggregate open data should also be published but must reference the primary data.
  • Timely. Open data are made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data. Frequency of release should account for key audiences and downstream needs.
  • Managed Post-Release. A point of contact must be designated to assist with data use and to respond to complaints about adherence to these open data requirements.

Legal and Technical Openness

Data openness is thus a matter of being both legally and technically open. Open data requires a culture of openness and data sharing, as well as the technical infrastructure and support required to effectively publish and exchange data at a large scale.


To learn more: