What makes data open?

Open data is data that is made available by organisations, businesses and individuals for anyone to 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)

For example, the Department for Education makes available open data about the performance of schools in England. The data is available as CSV and is available under the Open Government Licence, which only requires reusers to say that they got the data from the Department for Education.

These principles for open data are described in detail in the Open Definition.

Good open data

  • can be linked to, so that it can be easily shared and talked about
  • is available in a standard, structured format, so that it can be easily processed
  • has guaranteed availability and consistency over time, so that others can rely on it
  • is traceable, through any processing, right back to where it originates, so others can work out whether to trust it

The Open Data Institute aims to help organisations who are using data be aware of which data they can and can’t use and to help organisations who want to publish data to make that data sharable, structured, reliable and traceable.