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What is open data all about? Is it the same as freedom of information/ public records requirements?

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Open data refers to the practice of making electronic data records accessible in whole or in part to the public. While freedom of information requests represent reactive disclosure, open data programs provide proactive disclosure - making information available without it being requested. By monitoring the reactive process to identify frequent requests for the same or similar information, and prioritizing that data for release, you can ultimately reduce the workload. However, it is highly unlikely that an open data program will completely replace the full range of public records requests you receive.

At GovEx, we believe the following elements are key to open data:

  • Open data is online. Governments proactively provide open data through the internet, giving the public the ability to find and use open data without waiting for a response or approval.
  • Open data is free. Governments do not require payment from anyone to obtain open data.
  • Open data is non-proprietary. Governments do not require data consumers to have specific software programs in order to use open data.
  • Open data is unrestricted. Governments do not restrict the use, interpretation, or redistribution of open data through copyright or other terms of use.
  • Open data is machine-processable. Governments do not require data consumers to scrape data out of "locked-up" formats like PDFs in order to use it, instead using data formats like CSV, JSON, or XML.

For more information about open data, refer to the GovEx guide “Getting Started with Open Data

Answered January 24, 2016