Open Government Data

Open Goverment Data (also OpenGovData, OGD) is data that is made available by a public authority or government organization for free use by the public. Open Government Data is a common subset of the Open Government and Open Data movement. However, many authors use the term Open Data synonymously with Open Government Data and neglect the broader meaning of the term.

"The world is witnessing a significant global transformation, facilitated by technology and digital media, and fueled by data and information. [...] Open data is at the center of this global shift." International Open Data Charter (IODC)

The right to inspect public administration documents and files is already enshrined in law in many countries (e.g. by the Freedom of Information Act of the Federal Republic of Germany, effective since 1 January 2006, or the Public Information Act of Switzerland, BGĂ–, effective since 1 July 2006). While many data have so far only been published on request, the Open Government movement is striving for the "Open by default" principle, i.e. that administrative data should in future be published by default, even without prior request.

Most governments that disclose data on a large scale have committed themselves to the Open Government model (OpenGov for short), whose principles are summarized with transparency, participation and cooperation. Through more transparency, government action is to be made more comprehensible for citizens. By providing open data, the state is accountable for how taxpayers' money is invested or natural resources are used. Participation means that citizens are to be involved in the decision-making processes of the state - politics benefit from new impulses and problem-solving approaches from society, in society itself political disenchantment is to be reduced and the acceptance of state action is to be increased. In addition, the cooperation of governments with civic organizations and companies should be actively promoted.

Fig.: Ă–kosystem der Offenheit
Source: Klessman et al., 2012

According to the study "Open Government Data Germany" (Klessmann et al., 2012), Open Government, in cooperation with existing approaches, is intended to stimulate an ecosystem of openness in which the various approaches mutually enrich each other due to interactions (see figure).

The goals of Open Government were formulated prominently in the Memorandum on "Transparency and Open Government", published by US President Barack Obama in 2009. They can also be found in the Declaration of the Open Government Partnership (2011), an international open government initiative.

The Open Government Charter of the G8 states (2013), whose successor declaration is the International Open Data Charter, which is currently being actively further developed, has a greater focus on Open Data as a component of Open Government strategies. The two declarations state five and six core principles for the publication of open administrative data, which are essentially identical, respectively, but they are formulated somewhat differently in the International Charter and supplemented by a number of conditions. The nations and organizations that support one of the two charters have agreed to gradually converge towards these goals and to create the necessary legal, organizational and technical framework. Together with the 10 Open Data Principles of the Sunlight-Foundation, which are often quoted in official government documents, the two charters are decisive for internationally recognized Open Data standards and goals. As the overview below shows, key points of the Sunlight Foundation Principles are also reflected in the descriptions of the Charter Principles. The table compares the principles, which correspond to each other thematically, and summarizes their essential contents.

G8 Open Data Charter 1 International Open Data Charter (IODC)2 Open Data Principles of the Sunlight-Foundation

Standard open data

Explanation: Until now, government and administrative data have often only been released in response to justified requests. In the future, all data will be published by default, unless there are special reasons to withhold it. The International Charter also requires governments to justify withholding data.
1. Open by default 1. Open by default -

Quality and quantity / prompt and comprehensive

Explanation: Data should be published as early as possible, comprehensively and with high accuracy. Where possible, data should be provided in their original, unmodified form (primary source) and in the highest available resolution (granularity). Information should be written in simple, easily understandable language and the data should be fully documented.
The International Charter also calls for comprehensive and consistent data archiving and version management (lifecycle management), mechanisms for data improvement through user feedback, and for users to be consulted on major changes in data structure and availability.
2. Quality and Quantity 2. Timely and comprehensive 1. Completeness
2. Timeliness
3. Primacy
[ ... ]
9. Permanence

Accessible and usable for all

Explanation: The greatest possible number of users (and user groups) should be allowed to use the data for the greatest possible variety of purposes. Therefore, central data portals should ensure that open data can be easily found and retrieved. The provision is non-discriminatory and barrier-free, i.e. any user can access the data without first having to register, identify or fulfil any other access requirements. The data itself should be available in a generally understandable, machine-readable data format. The data should be free of charge and their free use should be guaranteed by open licences.
According to the IODC, public awareness and trained handling of Open Data as well as the availability of the necessary tools and resources should also be promoted.

Comparable and interoperable

Explanation: The International Open Data Charter highlights the comparability and interoperability of data as an independent principle. Because more data is generally accessible, there are more and more ways to combine it and generate added value. An important prerequisite for this are generally valid data standards and data models.
3. Usable by all 3. Accessible and usable
4. Ease of physical and electronic access
5. Machine readability
6. Non-discrimination
7. Commonly owned or Open Standards
8. Licensing
10. Usage costs
- 4. Comparable and interoperable

Improved governance and involvement of citizens

Explanation: Through the publication of corresponding data, government action should be made comprehensible both within and outside the government, as well as in the international exchange between nations. More transparency can improve public services and hold the state accountable (e.g. for measures against corruption and mismanagement). The supporting governments and organizations of the two charters recognize that Open Data strengthens democracy and encourages government action to be more responsive to the needs of citizens.
4. Releasing data for improved governance 5. For improved governance and citizen engagement -

Promoting development and innovation

Explanation: Open Data can generate social and economic value in both the commercial and non-commercial sectors. In this context, innovation and creativity should be actively promoted. According to the IODC, citizens, social and private sector organisations and multilateral institutions should also be encouraged to publish data in order to enlarge the Open Data ecosystem. To this end, partnerships between stakeholders will be encouraged and an exchange of experience and technical expertise will take place. At schools and higher education institutions, data literacy and open data research will become part of curricula. This will build capacity and encourage developers, entrepreneurs, civil society, private sector organisations, scientists, media representatives, government employees and other users to unlock the potential of open data.
5. Releasing data for innovation 6. For inclusive development and innovation -

Discuss and take notes: Why do governments and public institutions advocate Open Data?

Even governments that are not clearly committed to the Open Government goals and that pursue some or even opposite policies publish some data as Open Data. Examples are Russia and China. What are the possible differences between the goals of these governments?

Related articles:

  1. Adopted by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (USA) on 18 June 2013 â†©

  2. Is actively developed as a follow-up to the G8 Charter and has been formally adopted by 19 national governments and supported by many government institutions and non-governmental organisations worldwide. (Status: 15.5.2018, in Europe only adopted by UK, Italy, France and Ukraine) â†©