What is Open Data?

Or even, what is data, and why is it important to learn how to use them?

Are data information? Are they knowledge? Do they tell objective and unbiased truths?

These are some basic questions we will be exploring with participants in the DataHub workshops, prior to looking at Open Data. When thinking about data, it is important to ask questions about access, license, sharing and use. For example, is there anything restricting the use of a dataset, such as a commercial agreement? If so, then it is not really ‘open’.

Here is the definition that the Open Data Institute provides:

Open data is data that anyone can access, use and share.

Open data has to have a licence that says it is open data. Without a licence, the data can’t be reused. The licence might also say:

  • that people who use the data must credit whoever is publishing it (this is called attribution)
  • that people who mix the data with other data have to also release the results as open data (this is called share-alike)

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Joel Gurin’s Google talk video is also a useful resource for getting a sense of how Open Data can be seen as a new source of value for society and economy today.