Exploring Open Data Effectively

Open Data | Big Data

Have you ever looked up websites to find statistics or information about the area you live in? Chances are you’ve stumbled across some Open Data! There’s also a big chance that marketing, advertising and strategic agencies have found Open Data like this information to be vital in the way they target their audiences (but that’s a whole different post).

Today I want to touch on the importance of Open Data and how you should be using it not only for research, but to be transparent and engage the public.

If you aren’t already familiar with open data, it’s data that (when attributed) can be used, reused and redistributed by anyone for free. The data is usually very detailed; however, it tends to stay away from information that would allow you to identify any particular individuals.

So what has open data done for you? Well for starters, if you use an app that shows you when your transit arrives, where to find the best city parking, or the best bicycle route then  you’re likely benefiting from something created with open data (possibly due to an Open Government initiative).

The open data movement has encouraged organizations and agencies (in the public and private sectors) to make information available to the public for free, without any restriction or control; it has the ability to increase transparency, accountability and diversity, while identifying trends and decreasing spending through partnerships with innovation programs. Does your organization put much thought into the importance and use of Open Data?

If you’re at the point where you think you want to start providing open data, there are lots of resources out there, just remember: to be thorough, do your research and keep your data simple, accessible and complete.


TLDR + Resources:

1. Open data is used in a variety of ways, from the mobile app that tells you when the bus will arrive, to the ones telling you where the local dog parks are — all the information comes from organizations who choose to give the data to the public for free.

2. If your organization plans on providing open data to the public, there are a number of best practices and guidelines about the data you are uploading, which must be:

+ complete (data that isn’t missing large sets)
+ timely (must be up to date, and updated regularly)
+ primary (you must be the source of the data)
+ accessible (available in easy to access ways, online and free)
+ non-discriminatory (available to everyone)
+ accessible (available in easy to access ways)

3. Open data can be a great resource for your projects, whether you are researching key audience/demographic  trends or looking for interesting content to publish. Below are some sources for data that you may find useful when it comes to creating infographics or data driven campaigns:

+ Government (Canada, UK, US)
+ Sports (Basketball, Football, Baseball)
+ Social (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
+ Health (Devinfo)
+ Data Aggregators (Google Public Data, DataMarket)

[Sources:  Open Government | Open Data Impacts |  Web Foundation |  Open Data Network ]

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One thought on “Exploring Open Data Effectively

  1. Stafford Edwards says:

    I concur and definitively want to draw attention to one of the criteria you referenced. When developing a site, serious consideration should be taken to allow for a clean and accessible UI.

    There are times when the data you are looking for is lost in the glitz, glam and fluff of a site. Digital design can (and in some cases should) adopt some key elements of industrial design – where form follows function.

    Though given the entrenched penchant for some well-known Open Data online entities to subject visitors with the latest whizzbang interactions, the opportunity to make sensible use of the sought after data can prove challenging.

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