What Do You Know about Open Data? Standards and Applications


On this page:

  • What Is the Concept of Open Data?
  • What Are the Open Data Standards?
  • Why Is Open Data Important?
  • Open Data Applications
  • Examples of Open Data 


Data is becoming more valuable than ever, and every day there are huge amounts of data collected. But what good is data if it’s not available to the vast majority of people? Maybe because it’s expensive to reach data, or because access to it is limited to certain individuals and bodies? That would be a waste of data because data helps in making better decisions. This is why open data is becoming more important every day and in different fields. Because open data can be shared, edited and reused without restrictions or limitations. This article will discuss the concept of open data, its standards, importance, and applications.

What Is the Concept of Open Data?

Open data refers to data available to anyone, anywhere, used, and shared. Data or publicly available content and free to use and distribute is considered open data. It is only when open data is provided in a standard, machine-readable format that it becomes usable.

The following features distinguish the majority of these open data sets:

Limitations: For data to be open, it must not have limits that restrict its use. The data should be freely accessible to all for use, modification, combining, and sharing, including commercial purposes.

Cost: It should be free to use open data, but this does not mean that anyone can access it for free. The process of creating, maintaining, and publishing valuable data comes at a cost.

The availability of reliable services can pose ongoing costs for live data and big data. In an ideal world, any fee for access to open data should not exceed the reasonable reproduction cost of the requested unit of data. The reproduction cost tends to be relatively small for many datasets.

Reuse: When a user has the data, that data can be used, repurposed, and redistributed – even commercially. When creating data, it is critical to consider format, structure, and machine readability. A data set is open when used for anything, not when available.

What Are the Open Data Standards?

More and more Open Data portals are popping up around the world. National governments publish Open Data, as are states, regions and municipalities. Even private organizations are starting to release information in Open Data formats. This is hugely beneficial for making governments and businesses more transparent and enabling new and innovative solutions for society.

Data standards can help facilitate interoperability by understanding what is described and how. Using open data standards lowers entry barriers for data publishers and data users.

However, open data standards can be interpreted differently, even in this context. When we talk about open data standards, we refer to documented, reusable agreements that help people and organizations publish, access, share, and use better quality data.

In this context, open data standards refer to:

  • Availability and Access- The data should be available to download from the Internet in a usable form, at no cost other than reproduction costs.
  • Reuse and redistribution- The data should be made publicly available without any restrictions on reuse and redistribution.
  • Universal participation- The data can be used, modified, and shared by anyone regardless of the purpose of its use. No group or person should be discriminated against due to any factor.

Why Is Open Data Important?

Publication of data is driven by the conviction that it provides enormous benefits to citizens, businesses, and governments while facilitating stronger international cooperation. In addition to providing help in many fields – including health, food security, education, climate, intelligent transport systems, and smart cities – open data is also considered an essential resource for economic growth, job creation, and societal progress.

In general, open data has the following benefits:


Open Data enables greater transparency and helps reduce corruption by enabling public oversight of governments. Several projects show how the government spends tax money, for instance, the Finnish ‘tax tree’ and British ‘where does my money go?’ There’s also the example of how open data saved Canada $3.2 billion by reducing charity tax fraud. Various websites, such as the Danish folketsting.dk, track activities in parliament and the legislative process, so you can see exactly what’s going on and who’s involved.

Active Community Participation 

Open data can encourage greater citizen involvement in government affairs and support democratic societies by providing details about voting procedures and locations. Citizens have a limited ability to engage with their own governance sporadically – maybe just once every four or five years at an election. Open data enables citizens to make better-informed decisions by being much more involved in the decision-making process. Transparency isn’t enough: We need to make an indeed “read/write” society, so people will know what is going on in the governance process and take part in it.

Public Service Improvement

Citizen engagement with open data can improve public services and government engagement. Open data can influence public planning, and citizens can provide government ministries feedback on public service quality.

The government itself can benefit from open data as well. The government can become more efficient, for example. The Dutch Ministry of Education’s educational data is available online for reuse. Consequently, the number of FAQs they receive has decreased, reducing workloads and costs. Civil servants can also now answer the remaining questions quickly since it is clear where relevant data can be located.

In addition to improving government efficiency, open data is also reducing costs. To enhance the efficiency of their own tasks, the Dutch Ministry of Culture actively releases its data and collaborates with amateur historical societies and groups, such as the Wikimedia Foundation. The Wikimedia Foundation offers a number of publicly accessible instruments for gathering data on the reach and reusing of materials within certain Wikimedia projects. These measurements have been applied for Dutch institutions on Wikimedia Commons since November 2014. Not only will this result in improved data quality, but it will also result in less number of employees and increased productivity.

Innovation and Economic Value

Open data isn’t just good for performance and transparency in the public sector. It’s also good for economic growth. As a result of open data, McKinsey Global Institute claimed that seven sectors alone could generate over $3 trillion annually – and perhaps as much as $5 trillion annually – in additional value. Open data may still be in its early days, but established companies are already using it to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and develop new products and services.

One study from Spain found that businesses that sell services on top of Open Data have 150 companies, employ approximately 4,000 employees, and generate approximately 330-550 million Euros a year that are directly attributable to Open Data use.

Similar benefits have been reported for other sectors as well. According to a study by Oxera for Google, the Gross Value Added (GVA) generated by the geospatial services sector is $113 billion a year, 0.1 percent of global GVA and about half of the GVA of the airline industry. Further indirect benefits included time savings of $17 billion, fuel savings of $5 billion and education savings of $13 billion, according to Oxera. Moreover, they highlighted the fast-paced growth of the industry – at a rate of 30% per year.

Social innovations and economic growth rely heavily on public data and their reuse. The use of open data can lead to innovative services and new business models. Furthermore, it can help organizations make more informed decisions and use their resources more effectively. By allowing citizens to access data about public services, open data can provide new opportunities for governments and citizens to collaborate.

Open Data Empower Citizens to Make Informed Decisions and Contribute to Policy Making

The social benefits of open data include increased participation, collaboration, and the inclusion of marginalized groups. Citizens can make better-informed decisions, but they are also empowered to positively influence better-tailored policies to their needs.

Participation of citizens in traditional policymaking is enhanced when data is open.

Thanks to increased government transparency through open data, citizens can make their own conclusions about reports. Additionally, open data allows for collaboration between the public and private sectors. Open data can be used for such opportunities, for example, by initiating hackathons in which interested parties work on specific challenges. Open data can also benefit certain marginalized groups by facilitating their inclusion in society. Several cities have developed applications and services to facilitate the movement of disabled people by utilizing open data, such as car parking information or maps of accessible public transportation stations.

Open Data Applications

Climate change, pollution, poverty, and famine are some of the most complex planetary problems that can be solved. Economic growth is driven by innovation. Innovation is driven by data. According to open data advocates, an evolving society depends on access to information. The use of open data can help citizens hold their governments accountable.

Open data can be leveraged by businesses, governments, and communities to develop new products and services. In addition to benefiting non-profits and for-profits, open data also helps the economy and people.

Here are some of the applications of open data:


Increasingly, data transparency is a concern in government. Every day, activists demand more information on everything from the personal finances of presidential candidates to government’s spending of tax money.

The availability of open data enables civic agencies to better communicate with the public, reinforcing a government “for the people by the people.”

The concept of open data has been embraced by some civic administrators. As part of the Durham Open Data Portal, city and county officials from Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, gathered data impacting education, crime, finance, transportation, and public health. Citizens can now access open data via an easy-to-use web portal that includes interactive maps, dashboards, and searchable data indexes. Legislators in Durham say the portal has facilitated open communication between the government and the people it serves by increasing community engagement.

An even larger initiative was the creation of the International Open Data Charter (ODC). At the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, the charter was formally launched following a global consultation spearheaded by key representatives from OGP governments, including the UK, Canada, and Mexico, and civil society organizations, including the World Wide Web Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation, Center for Internet and Society, and Initiative for Latin American Open Data. The document laid out six key principles for open data, including making it available in a timely manner and interoperable.

The Charter recognizes that open data plays a vital role in improving government and governance, as well as in driving innovation in data-driven products and services.

Open Data In The Health Sector

Data by patients can be a valuable and largely untapped source of value in the healthcare industry by enabling them to manage their own health to avoid illness and achieve better results from treatment when they are sick. The main goal is to provide patients with information that will help them make healthy lifestyle choices and manage their treatment options effectively.

The creation of more liquid healthcare data can reduce the occurrence of lifestyle-related diseases (including hypertension and diabetes) by better identifying individuals at risk. For example, patient information (such as exercise habits) can be combined with clinical data to identify individuals at risk. Then, patients at risk can be targeted for health education or help prevent illness, for example, by recommending screenings or issuing personal reminders.

Open Data And Not-For-Profit Organizations

Since NGOs have access to information from multiple governments and constituencies around the globe, they are among the most active users, producers, and disseminators of open data today.

There are vast databases of data held by the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Health Organization, which they share with the public. This allows others to analyze the data and develop similar tools and products to those created with the data of businesses and governments.

NGOs have a global presence and are present in multiple countries, which gives them a unique opportunity to promote standards that make open data more accessible and usable by policymakers. Through their training efforts for data scientists, foundations can also promote open-data initiatives. Since most countries lack skilled workers trained in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, education is more important than ever. In addition, some NGOs, such as “Code for America,” sponsor programs in which people with data skills are placed in positions where they can create applications based on open data.

Open Data In The Agricultural Sector

The most pressing challenge of our age is achieving global food security. Open data can foster innovation and organizational change across the agricultural value chain by enabling more efficient and effective decision-making at multiple levels, enabling new services and applications, and promoting transparency.

A wide range of agricultural actors utilizes data to serve different needs, including empowering farmers, optimizing agricultural practice, stimulating rural finance, streamlining the Agri value chain, enforcing national policies, and promoting government transparency and efficiency.

Open Data In The Arts, Culture & Tourism Sectors

The digitization of cultural artifacts by museums, libraries, and archives has led to the storage of open data on the web. In addition to supporting scientific discourse, these activities educate populations on one of our most treasured cultural assets.

In order to reach new audiences, tourism organizations use open cultural data to map, present information about, and promote local attractions and events. The data allows them to target their promotions to specific audiences and let visitors easily navigate the various options available to them.

In addition to weather and consumer predictions, tourism, economic, and consumer data are also used by a number of organizations to plan for and accommodate various numbers of visitors during the year.

Open Data in Education

The classroom itself will be where most of the most useful open data applications will develop. Information about student performance, specific teaching practices, and local mandates or guidelines can be combined with information about individual learning preferences and educational procedures to help families and educators identify areas for improvement. Personalized learning plans can be created for students using open data; teachers can receive frequent feedback, and targeted professional development programs can be designed to improve instruction.

Furthermore, schools can consolidate, standardize, and compare their purchase products to reduce procurement costs using open data. It is also possible to better forecast when products and services will be needed by analyzing past purchases and how similar institutions allocate their budgets.

Open Data in the Energy & Climate Sector

For conservation and improved operations to be profitable, many investments will need to be made in technology and processes. Customers can discover ways to save energy by providing detailed data about their energy consumption and showing how other consumers (or businesses) use electricity. Open data could help generate, distribute, and consume electricity globally at a value of as much as $340 billion to $580 billion annually.

Utility companies can also benefit from sharing benchmarking data to streamline permitting processes and improve project management. Utility companies and regulators need to develop programs to use open data, establish explicit privacy protections for consumers, and encourage organizational cooperation by sharing data.

Moreover, open data presents a unique opportunity to make climate policymaking informed by all available data while building trust with civil society and enabling users to create tools and visualizations that have a broader impact and engage new audiences.

Open Data In The Financial Sector

Financial institutions can prepare for market fluctuations through predictive analysis using open data. In light of demographic trends and changing customer preferences, they can modify product offerings. In addition, open data can be used to identify and stop fraudulent activity faster.

Open Data in Media & Communications

Media and communication industries are undergoing rapid changes, driven by a dual need to reduce operating costs and generate more revenue in a market that has become more competitive and uncertain. In many ways, media companies were early adopters of open data because it enables them to drive digital transformation by utilizing the data they have already and new data sources from within and outside their organization.

Open Data In Transportation & Logistics

Individuals would benefit most from reduced travel times and increased productivity using open data. In addition to improving public transportation and freight operations, open data can optimize operations based on industry benchmarks and adjust schedules to match demand.

It can be a potent tool when combined with other transportation statistics. Using open data, for instance, the city of Moscow estimates how long it will take citizens to commute by different modes of transportation in 2012. The town used Internet-based traffic measurement resources, mobile phone location information, transportation-operation statistics, and city and regional development projections. Using its own and open data, the city determined whether extending the subway into the suburbs was necessary or if other services could better meet the demand. In the end, the transit authority decided not to invest in a costly subway extension and instead planned to invest in a suburban rail line. Moscow was able to reduce its upfront costs and allow its services to be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of its population.

Additionally, to avoid more than $1 billion in infrastructure costs, the new suburban rail extension can reduce commute times by 16 minutes per trip, saving each rider one week of travel time each year.

Open data can also provide insight into infrastructure investments. For consumers to realize the full potential of open data in transportation, they need easy-to-use apps that provide real-time location and estimated travel times for different modes of transportation.

Examples of Open Data 

Open Data initiatives often overlap jurisdictions and are governed by different levels. The country-level initiatives include data at the national level and below, and they are often federated, which means they aggregate data from various sources. Subnational and city initiatives are similar in design but with a smaller scope. A particular agency or sector may have its own data focusing on a specific theme. Additional sources may include specific information, including statistics, geospatial information, or micro-data, such as surveys of businesses and households.

The following examples illustrate open data at the national, state, and individual agency levels, and for some specific topics

Country-Level Open Data

City- & Subnational-Level Open Data

Open Data by Sector/Topic

For specific sectors and topics, here are some examples of Open Data.

Sector Website
Agriculture The USDA National Farmers Market Directory
Agriculture U.K. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
Budgets & Public Finance WB Open Budgets
Budgets & Public Finance OpenSpending
Budgets & Public Finance International Budget Partnership
Budgets & Public Finance The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI)
Budgets & Public Finance U.S. IRS Tax Statistics
Education Ed Data Inventory
Education MyData Office of Educational Technology
Education CheckMySchool
Energy & Extractive Industries Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
Energy & Extractive Industries U.S. Department of Energy
Energy & Extractive Industries Enel Open Data – Largest power company in Italy
Environment Open Climate Data
Environment Fuel Economy Data, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Environment New York City Environment Open Data
Geospatial OpenStreetMap
Geospatial Haiti Data geospatial information
Health The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Health Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) Databases on healthcare cost & utilization in the U.S.
Health WB Health Data
Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) Australian ICT Open Datasets
Transport OpenPlans
Transport European Public Sector Information Platform: Transport
Water Global water database



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