What is open data?

If data is described as ‘open’, it means anyone can access, use or share it.

Open DefinitionOpen data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike.

The full Open Definition gives precise details as to what this means. To summarise the most important:

  • Availability and access: the data must be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading over the Internet. The data must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.
  • Re-use and redistribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets.
  • Universal participation: everyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute - there should be no discrimination against fields of endeavour or against persons or groups. For example, ‘non-commercial’ restrictions that would prevent ‘commercial’ use, or restrictions of use for certain purposes (e.g. only in education), are not allowed.

If you’re wondering why it is so important to be clear about what open means and why this definition is used, there’s a simple answer: interoperability. Interoperability denotes the ability of diverse systems and organizations to work together (inter-operate). In this case, it is the ability to interoperate - or intermix - different datasets.

Open data can be uncovered in many formats

It's not just csv files and tables of data. It can include books, photographs, maps, manuscripts, 3d objects, and more.