Open Data: What is here for me?

Written by Ekaterina Ponkratova.

Are you an avid data scientist, a competitive business owner, a responsible government official, a genuinely passionate researcher, or a caring citizen?

Open data is a term that has been in popular use lately with businesses, governments and citizens using open data to launch new ventures, create more transparent government, improve public services, and solve societal problems. It has become so popular that you might have started wondering, what it has to offer you and if there is something you can do about it.

But first and foremost, let’s revise some basic concepts.

 What is “Open Data”, anyway?

According to the open definition, “open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.” Which means data in a convenient, modifiable and open i.e. a format with a freely available published specification which places no restrictions, monetary or otherwise, upon its use) or, at the very least, can be processed with at least one free/libre/open-source software tool format to any interested party with no restrictions applied, including commercial use and re-use.

The most commonly used open data are government data collected purposefully or as a part of the government function on a national, regional, or local levels, research / science data and private sector data (see the image below)

Types of open data

Source: From Gurin, J. (2014) Open Data Now, McGraw Hill. Available http://www.mcgrawhillprofessionalbusinessblog.com/2014/02/18/an-infographic-big-data-is-big-open-data-is-revolutionary/

 

What is the state of Open Data around the world and in Mexico?

As it was already mentioned, the most widely used Open data is public sector information / Open Government Data, and that is why it receives lots of attention. Produced by the World Wide Web Foundation as a collaborative work of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) network and with the support of the Omidyar Network, the Open Data Barometer (ODB) attempts to measure Open data readiness i.e. measures relating to the existence of open data and implementation strengths and estimate its indirect impact (see the interactive map).

Launched in 2012 and aimed at providing “an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens”, Open Government Partnership (OGP) formed by 74 participating countries with Mexico being one of the founding members. As an OGR member, a country member is committed to four open government principles: access to information (including government transparency), civic participation (including civic engagement), integrity (including anti-corruption measures), and access to technology to support openness and accountability[1]. Mexico was one of the top performers in Latin America, achieving both short-term impact through data releases and long-term impact by presenting legal frameworks such as a regulation for data protection and developing cooperation between open data public agencies and other actors.


Attempts to measure open data state on a state level are made by a research group from the Center for Research and Teaching of Economics (in Spanish: Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)), the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (in Spanish: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEM)) and the University of the Americas Puebla (in Spanish: Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP)). The E–Government Development Index by State (in Spanish: Índice de Gobierno Electrónico Estatal) is based on the five components: Information, Interaction, Transaction, Integration and Participation (read more on the methodology here). Jalisco, Nuevo León, and Baja California were ranked highest while Veracruz, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas were in the bottom three of the rankings of e-government development of the Mexican states. The analysis by the group revealed that only 9 of the 32 states have their own open data portal (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Cd. de Mexico, Jalisco, Morelos, Nuevo León, Puebla and Zacatecas) with 4 more states using the federal platform data.gob.mx (Coahuila, Estado de México, Guanajuato and Morelos).

 

Why is openness of data important?

The open data boom has led to a large rise in research activity, yet there is no consensus on which outcomes should be measured. If open data agenda is established to increase government transparency, driving new business and enabling individuals and organizations to make better informed decisions, how successful outcomes will look like and which evidences are needed to show success. At the national level, a political impact – increased transparency & accountability – has a high impact strength in Mexico, followed by a social impact that takes a form of social inclusion and environmental impacts (see “Open Data Impact”). Interestingly enough, the conclusions from the Open Data Barometer point that globally entrepreneurial open data use has overtaken accountability benefits.

Open Data Impact

What about you? How do you use Open data as a data scientist, a business owner, a government official, a researcher, or a citizen?

 

What can I do to get the most of Open data?

  1. Follow along to read more on Open data and how it could benefit you.
  2. Attend the next Open Data day to meet other data users (more information to follow).

[1] Open Government Partnership, Open Government Declaration

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