Shaping our Future with Open Data

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We live in a period characterised by a continuous process of data creation. There is, however, a specific type of data known as open data, which is available to everyone and can be used for your own (and commercial) purposes. You can share open data, disseminate it, build your projects on it and provide various services using it without restriction.

Who makes open data available in the first place? The most common providers are public entities (cities, government institutions, research institutes, transport companies, statistical offices, educational institutions, etc.), although being a public entity is not a precondition to providing open data. One umbrella global non-profit organisation that promotes and supports the expansion of open data usage is Open Knowledge International (OKI). Their activities can broadly be described in the following three points (Open Knowledge International 2017b):

  • Promoting the use of open data for the work of civic organizations
  • Providing tools and skills to these organizations for the effective use of open data.
  • Creating information systems for the government so that they are optimised for civic use.

One of the basic features of open data is so-called interoperability, i.e. it enables different systems and organisations to work together with the same data (Open Knowledge Foundation, 2015). These various separate components can then form a single system that draws on a huge amount of data. Incidentally, OKI also operates the Global Open Data Index, which monitors the degree of data openness of individual states. Currently (May 2020), Taiwan is the most open.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of using open data.

Example from Spain. Barcelona to open society

It is clear that open data is increasingly of interest to major cities. Not only are do they produce it themselves, but they are already building on it for their strategic planning and civic projects. One example of this is Barcelona, which already uses open data in a number of specific ways. The city originally divided its data into three groups (Berrone et al. 2016):

  • Quick wins – data that is easy to open, including significant opportunities to use it.
  • Strategic short-term data sets – data that is of great interest to society, but which is difficult to access; or, data that can be easily accessed, but in which the interest is not very great.
  • Strategic data sets (phase 2) – data that cannot be easily accessed and is of little interest.

Barcelona, for example, identified the following areas as “quick wins”:

Accidents, complaints and suggestions
Grants, grants and contracts
Surface parking areas
2D & 3D maps
Rotation in parking areas
Itineraries for athletes (e.g. runners) and the disabled

During the implementation period, additional data files were created for use, such as: overview of places with public wi-fi, places with archaeological monuments, location of taxi services. At the same time, Barcelona has supported the creation of a bicycle-sharing system and an application for a list of medical facilities.

European Union (European Data Portal)

The EU is running a great data portal that provides numerous datasets from all the member states (currently 35 countries and over one million datasets). 


United States (Data.gov)

The U.S. government operates a central portal Data.gov, currently using over 192,000 data files. The basic portal interface offers a clear breakdown of data into individual sectors. You can search either by browsing the individual categories or by searching for a specific keyword.


This article is an introductory overview of open data. We will be publishing additional articles with specific examples, approaches and tools that will help you get the most out of this hugely positive trend in modern data.

Summary:

  • Open data is data that is accessible to the public without restrictions, i.e. to distribute, share, disseminate, or create projects, commercial products and other services.
  • Open data is provided mainly by public entities.

Literature:

BERRONE, Pascual, Joan E. RICART a Carlos CARRASCO, 2016. The Open Kimono : Toward A General Framework For Open Data Initiatives In Cities. California Management Review [online]. 11., 59 (1), 39–70 [Last seen 2020-04-27]. DOI:10.1177/0008125616683703

OPEN KNOWLEDGE FOUNDATION, 2015. What is Open? [online] [Last seen 2020-04-27]. Available from https://okfn.org/opendata/

OPEN KNOWLEDGE INTERNATIONAL, 2017a. Global Open Data Index [online] [Last seen 2020-04-27]. Available from https://index.okfn.org/place/

OPEN KNOWLEDGE INTERNATIONAL, 2017b. Open Knowledge: About [online] [Last seen 2020-04-27]. Available from https://okfn.org/about/

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