“Open data is data that can be accessed, freely used, shared, and built on by anyone, anywhere for any purpose” – The Open Knowledge Foundation (2005).
Open data needs to be licensed to be used freely as open data. Opposed to open data is copyright data that requires special permission or needs to be paid for to be accessed and cannot always be redistributed freely. Open data needs to be freely available in bulk, free of charge or at a reasonable cost and available to everyone without restriction, including for commercial use.
So what exactly does this mean?
Very simply put, it has been decided that it is important for certain data to be freely available to everybody for the improvement of society or to help the planet. For example, a research team has collected data about how global warming is affecting the polar ice caps; sharing this data with everyone will create awareness and help people make better choices. But open data goes a few steps further. Another research team could take the same data and build on it by seeing if the same is true for the glaciers in the Himalayan mountain range or how some of the drastic effects of global warming can be reversed. Students could use the data including maps, graphs, and charts to create a project for school on global warming. This is an example of what open data is and what can be done with it.
Types of open data
Depending on the kind of data which mostly depends on the subject matter, open data can be classified into different types:
Government data: Governments of some countries post open data on their websites. This information could include statistics about the country’s development. For example, the number of people living below the poverty line or the loss of forest cover over the past ten years, and so on. Organizations hope that governments making their data open data would encourage transparency in the government operations. The World Bank and United Nations also post open data on their websites.
Science data: The International Council for Science makes sure that several World Data Centers give open access to scientific data. One of the main examples of this is the data obtained from the Human Genome Project. It has been stated that all scientific data obtained from the project is to be made available freely, allowing anyone to access it, intermix it with other datasets and even redistribute it. Allowing scientific data to be open data minimizes the loss of data over time.
Other data: Anyone can post their data online as open data; this includes photos, quotes, poems, short stories, paintings, and so on. This data is made available to the public to access and work with, in any way that they wish.
Why is open data important?
Open data can save a lot of time, effort, and money and help improve the planet as a whole. Having access to data that is already available can save a person or institution from having to start from scratch when they embark on a new project.
The development of new drugs can go so much faster if all the data from previous research studies on a disease is already available. Planning a city’s underground railway system can be helped along if data from other cities which have undertaken similar projects are easily accessible. These are only a couple of examples of how open data can benefit on a large scale but the possibilities are endless.
The Internet has made publishing, sharing, and accessing data incredibly easy and open data can change the world for the better when used sensibly.