Open Data: What’s in a Name?

Christian Laurence also contributed to this blog.

Over the last few years, in the U.S., the United Kingdom and a growing number of other countries, the drive to open up government data has become a national priority. Not only federal agencies, but state and local governments too are releasing more data in open formats to make their operations more transparent, bring information on government services to the public, and fuel new data-driven businesses. With national open data mandates calling on federal agencies to release data in open formats, there is a growing need to measure the impact and value of open data. The GovLab is engaged in a variety of projects (check out Open Data 500) toward providing more evidence on how open data contributes to particular public objectives. A core challenge to develop more comparative insights across countries and sectors however involves the divergence in how open data is defined.

Similar to our earlier compilation of definitions of Open Government, we have pulled together 10 definitions of Open Data and distributed the criteria in a “comparative table” (below) as to contribute to the debate on terminology and perhaps developing our own definition. If we are missing an important definition or criteria for open data, we want to hear from you. Please respond to this post (comment box below) with thoughts and any proposed additions.


Full Definitions:

1. Open Definition (referenced by Open Data Handbook, ODI, Open Data Census, and OECD Open Data Analytical Framework)

“Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.”

2. The White House, 2013 OMB Memorandum

“Open data refers to publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users.”

3. Data.Gov.UK

“Open data is data that is published in an open format, is machine readable and is published under a license that allows for free reuse.”

4. Dbpedia: A nucleus for a web of open data

“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.”

5. Open Data Institute

“Open data is information that is available for anyone to use, for any purpose, at no cost. Open data has to have a license that says it is open data. Without a license, the data can’t be reused. These principles for open data are described in detail in the Open Definition.”

6. LinkedGov

“Open data is non-personally identifiable data produced in the course of an organization’s ordinary business, which has been released under an unrestricted license. Open public data is underpinned by the philosophy that data generated or collected by organizations in the public sector should belong to the taxpayers, wherever financially feasible and where releasing it won’t violate any laws or rights to privacy (either for citizens or government staff).”

7. McKinsey Global Institute

“Machine-readable information, particularly government data, that’s made available to others. These open datasets share the following 4 characteristics: 1. Accessibility: A wide range of users is permitted to access the data. 2. Machine readability: The data can be processed automatically. 3. Cost: Data can be accessed free or at negligible cost. 4. Rights: Limitations on the use, transformation, and distribution of data are minimal.”

8. Open Data Now

“Open Data is accessible public data we can use to launch new ventures, analyze trends, make decisions, and solve problems.”

9. Open Data Barometer

Excerpt from report indicates that researchers assessed datasets based on the “full Open Definition requirements of being machine readable, accessible in bulk, and openly licensed.”

10. The World Bank

“Data is open if it satisfies both conditions below:

  • Technically open: available in a machine-readable standard format, which means it can be retrieved and meaningfully processed by a computer application
  • Legally open: explicitly licensed in a way that permits commercial and non-commercial use and re-use without restrictions.”

The Tags . .

2 Responses to “Open Data: What’s in a Name?”

  1. ulrich December 15, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    The ODI and OK definitions have changed.

  2. harry_wood September 3, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    I see Requires “Open” License is unticked for the OK definition, which seems odd. Was that how it used to be? Certainly seems to have a pretty clear tick on that now, reading the definition What was the change the ODI made?

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