Open data: why we need it

The term ‘open data’ has been bandied about quite a bit in the last couple of years, and the idea has certainly gained more momentum here in the UK in the year just gone thanks, at least in part, to some big changes by Central Government. So, first off, what is it? Put simply, it’s getting the data we (the public sector) collect, making it available on the web, and giving it a license that says ‘do whatever you want with it’. What benefit is it? There are numerous potential benefits to publishing open data:

  • Increased accountability and transparency
    • Citizens can more easily stay informed and so can make better decisions
    • Communities can check that they are being heard
  • Reduced Freedom of Information traffic
    • If the data is held, it’s already online for all to see
    • Traffic will either be avoided completely or will only require responses pointing to the correct datasets on the web
  • Aiding business and innovation
    • Creative minds can utilise the data e.g. as part of web or phone apps
    • Businesses can make more informed decisions about the area

What’s next? The future is linked open data which enhances the potential of open data by giving it a defined structure. This allows for automation (because computers can understand it), easier and more open access to the data, and informative links between datasets.


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