Open Data

What is open data?

“Content or data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.”

What is an open data portal?

We define an open data portal as an open data database resource that should consist of (at minimum) the following attributes:

  • only open data

The inclusion of non-open data would make the labeling of an open data portal incorrect and inaccurate. Problems can arise when a portal contains both open and non-open data, but is only covered by a single license.

  • appropriate data license and terms of use (to ensure ‘openness’)

Ensure protection of providers of information and users of information, and to ensure that data remains free to use for any of the users’ purposes.

  • be available in one or more of the standard file formats which include: shp., .csv, .kml, .xml, .pdf.

Standardizing data formats makes it easier for data to be translatable and used. Proving standard file formats ensures that users can rely on fewer programs to manipulate data,  a user will not have to learn multiple programs to use one type of data and therefore be more efficient and usable.

  • be in an organized and navigable database

Organization and navigability of a database is important for accessibility and management.  Users need to be able to find all the information that they seek if it is available. Organizing data makes maintenance and updating data easier for administrators.

  • be regularly maintained and updated

An open data portal ceases to be an efficient and reliable resource if its data is incomplete, or outdated. An open data portal needs to be maintained on a regular basis in order to benefit from making open data available to all users.

  • can be accessed without restriction, and instantaneously upon request

This is from the definition of open data, that it be free to access and available to all users. Any restrictions, whether it be time or fees is not conducive to the provision of open data and is counter-productive.


What should an open data license consist of?

This is a much more difficult question to answer. As seen in the data licenses of various Canadian data portals, there are differing interpretations of what open data consists of, and therefore varying levels of ‘openness’ among Canadian open data portals. In addition to the increasing number of open data portals, there are even more existing data portals from different government organisations that offer free downloads of data (although not with an open data license). This has created a situation where data in Canada is available from (too) many sources, but data is not equally accessible to the public and instead depends on the type of data and its owner.

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