At A Glance – Open Data

A 5 star plan for data for all

Supporters of open data believe that some kinds of data should be made publicly accessible for anyone to make use of. It’s a viewpoint that has accompanied the explosion of data in today’s digital world. With modern technology collecting more and better quality data on our world than ever before, it makes sense to open this up for social, economic, public and institutional gain.

The Open Data Institute (ODI), cofounded by world wide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 2012, is just one of the many organisations pushing the open data agenda. According to the ODI, open data is defined as ‘data that is available for everyone to access, use and share.’ But that’s not all. Open data should also be easy to access, structured, stored in a non-proprietary open format, clearly labelled, and linked to other data for context. Fulfilling all of these criteria represents the ideal for open data according to Tim Berners-Lee’s 5-Star Open Data plan, a ranking system designed to improve the quality and usability of data.

The power of open data can be seen in everything from the improvement of services offered by private companies, to the promotion of democracy. The transport company CityMapper, for example, uses Transport for London data to power its app, hosting real time information on bus and train services to connect the dots for commuters. In the public sector, open data gives citizens greater ability to hold their governments to account. Open Data Barcelona holds information on everything from legal judgements made by the city council to planned urban developments, providing residents with a single portal for authoritative information on their city.

Because it facilitates greater understanding of what is going on in the world around us, the applications of open data are truly endless, whether you’re an individual or a multinational company. It’s easy to see that open data has the potential to change the world – it all comes down to how we use it.

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