How Do we Define Open Data?


Why Define Open Data?

In January 2013, the Public Innovation Network (PIN) featured a video related to Open Government in which are collected a set of 42 standards that a Government or Administration must meet to be considered open. The dissemination and return that this video has had on the Internet has been considerable. The video has been the basis for debate within many administrations, and it has been translated into Spanish, English, French, Italian and Catalan.
The PIN would like to continue generating discussion and spreading the notion of Open Government as an evolution of the deliberative democracy towards participatory environments, truly focused on citizenship and networking. This is the reason why I was invited to participate in the new PIN project. The set of these articles will be collected in an electronic publication that we will be distributed under a Creative Commons license recognition.
So that is why I am posting this topic. I have my own views on Open Data as a concept but I want to stick with a more international definition.

What is Open Data?

In 2013 I attended the Open Data Institute's "Open Data in Practice". +Dave Tarrant was the instructor and Monday, Day 1 started out with this question and this definition. What is "Open Data". The OKF definition is basically this: 
“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.” 
The Open Definition gives full details on the requirements for ‘open’ data and content. Part of what the OKF definition holds true. Open data is traditionally characterized as being machine readable, free and unfettered access with at most an attribution license. In practice licensing is highly dependent on the local legal requirements for the reuse of the data. 

The definition of open data starts to become more complicated when other uses for the data are taken into consideration. In the video published by the Public Innovation Network (PIN) in January 2013 there is a strong inference of a correlation between open data and open government. These are absolutely and by necessity different concept and movements. 

The Danger and Fallacy of Open Data as Open Government

In "The New Ambiguity of 'Open Government'" Harlan Yu and David G. Robinson discuss the danger of open data being associated with open government.

Open government policy and programs can make the distinction between open data and open government opaque and there fore fall short of being either. Both movements can exist independently of one another. Open data is a quantitative definition of open and unfettered access to data, not information. Open government can publish data in proprietary formats and be transparent. Transparency is by definition qualitative. What is transparency? This is not a question I have the ability to answer. 

The international definition of "Open Data" therefore should be separated from discussions of open government.

Going back to the discussion I had with +Dave Tarrant regarding how to define open data, I find the definition of "data as infrastructure" to be satisfying. Open access to data as a strategic asset frees the conversation from subjective terms to object and even prescriptive terms.

Open data in simply access to machine readable data in non-proprietary formats and subject at most to attribution. There is no connection with open government save that one can use open data within an open government program but one does not equate to the other.     


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