If you have ever checked the weather online, used the navigation function of your smartphone to find an on-duty pharmacy, or calculated the road expenses of your municipality, then you have already used "Open" Public Data. But maybe you didn't know it... For a long time, it was difficult (or even impossible) to access this information from the public authorities.
This concept was born from the belief that the huge amount of information systematically collected by public administrations should be accessible to all citizens. In the late 2000s, states and their various services began to grant access to these resources to a greater number of users. The first government open data policies were introduced in 2009. Currently, more than 250 national and local governments, nearly 50 developed/developing countries, and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations have launched initiatives to release the data, and these are growing every year.
Data is considered "open" if everyone can use, reuse and redistribute it freely, free of charge, for any purpose and without restrictions. Many data sets are published on government websites, but most of them are only meant to be viewed in isolation, and are not reusable for other purposes. Open data must be reusable, that is, downloadable in an open, software-readable format, and users must be legally permitted to reuse it.
The availability of large-scale, easy-to-use data offers significant benefits: it can help streamline public services, foster economic opportunities, encourage innovation, improve public safety, and reduce poverty. As the benefits of open data reach an ever-increasing audience and more effective uses are being invented, governments and institutions around the world are eager to launch new Open Data programs or develop existing initiatives. It will take time to fully understand the complexity and enormous potential of open access to data, which is inseparable from the free license environment. But Open Data is still in its infancy, and best practices and communities are just beginning to emerge.
About this Handbook
As developing countries, as well as a growing number of other entities and organizations, embrace the Open Data technology revolution, the World Bank has designed this handbook to support their efforts. Based on online tools and knowledge, this guide gives them the advice they need to create their own strategies and platforms for accessing public data.
One way to look at Open Data initiatives is to view them from the economic point of view of supply and demand: data sets are goods; the data users are consumers, they are the ones who generate the demand for data; and government agencies and other data sources produce the offer. This vision is the focus of this guide and of the approach it proposes to structure an open data initiative.
In addition to this introduction, the practical guide includes seven sections:
1. What you need to know:
A brief presentation of the key aspects of the openness of public data and its uses, illustrated by examples of initiatives at different levels; This section is for everyone, especially inexperienced users or those discovering Open Data.
2. First Milestones:
Overview of the tools governments need to undertake an open data initiative; this section will be particularly useful for managers, coordinators and teams of administrations in charge of Open Data.
3. Technology Options:
Synthesis of key technical questions regarding the development of an open data catalog; this section is specifically intended for IT specialists.
4. Demand and Public Engagement:
How to create communities of data users and promote culture and data literacy among local, national and regional actors? How to advance Open Data concepts by soliciting partnerships and the media in particular? These issues will be of particular interest to public bodies, civil society organizations, technologists and journalists.
5. Data supply and quality:
How to manage datasets, locate data and ensure their quality, relevance and accuracy? This section is specifically for those who produce these data.
6. Readiness Assessment Tool:
Presentation of the methodological tool developed by the World Bank to diagnose the actions that governments must take in a given country or community to launch an Open Data Initiative. This section will be particularly useful for public officials who are committed to opening the data but do not know where to start.
7. Technical Assistance and Funding:
An overview of the main technical assistance and financing resources provided by the World Bank and other organizations. This section is primarily intended for the public authorities of developing countries.