Data has recently gained popularity though it is an old concept. Collecting and processing data has been downhill all the way through advancements in computer technologies. So, data-driven terms have been popularized. Having introduced a different dimension to data access for the last 15 years, open data is among them.
WHAT IS OPEN DATA?
Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) coined the term "open data" in 2005. Accordingly, there are two dimensions when it comes to data openness: legal and technical. Legally open means allowing for free legal access and reuse of data. Technically open means that data is technically available for everyone - there are no technical barriers. For example, it is hard for machines to read PDF documents, whereas machines can easily read JSON and XML formats. According to this definition, there are three significant points as well. The first of these is availability and access. Data must be available as a whole and preferably downloadable from the Internet. Plus, there must be no cost apart from reproduction costs. It must also be convenient and adjustable. The second point is reuse and redistribution. Data must allow reuse and redistribution, including the combination with other datasets. The last one is universal participation. Everyone should be able to use, reuse and redistribute. In a nutshell, open data is data that anyone can freely use, reuse and distribute.
THE HISTORY OF OPEN DATA
Open data is based on the philosophical idea of common good applied to knowledge. Robert King Merton asserted this idea before the invention of the Internet. As a result of his research in 1942, he argued for the benefits of open data. The knowledge for the common good evolved in time. Then, the term open data appeared in a document of an American science agency in 1995. The paper was on the disclosure of geophysical and environmental data. However, the meeting attended by 30 internet activists in Sebastopol in 2007 was the most significant development. Open data was defined, and its eight basic principles were determined at this meeting. This led to another significant development. About a year later, Barack Obama has issued an Open Government Directive. Most countries launched open data portals following this.
1) DATA AVAILABILITY
Many projects or organizations have limited data collection and management capacity. So, data management means the financial and time burden. Open data helps expand the analysis of data and draw conclusions from it. This can result in:
Ø Increased Community Engagement: It can bring together people who can exchange ideas, share their findings and discuss challenges. For example, OpenStreetMap allows free access to all map images and underlying map data. When you look at the user posts and the community page created with open data, you see that it is an OSM data user community with solid engagement.
Ø Increases efficiency and reduces costs: Open data can be used to improve the data that organizations and companies of all sizes have. It reduces the potential of data duplication during the collection process. So, organizations save time and money. It is of great importance for companies to collect demographic information. Individuals and organizations can easily find demographic information through data.census.gov in the USA.
Ø Progress and innovation: Without financial obstacles, more people can take the domain to the next level with available data. For example, NYC Open Data, a dataset generated by various city offices and agencies in New York, is protected. In a pilot project based on this, town planning and building data are brought together with research on school bullying in the city, and they were turned into a map. It is an obvious example that shows how open data increases the generating potential in research.
2) INCREASED TRANSPARENCY
Open data helps the public understand the issue since it is freely available to everyone. Keeping data within reach enables partners to act on data and defend themselves and their communities. For example, Mejora Tu Escula is an open data platform founded by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO). This platform has been transforming education in Mexico. It does this through presenting information about the school's performances. Families put pressure to improve education since schools that are not sufficient are apparent.
3) CORRUPTION DETECTION
Open data strengthens the bonds of public integrity and accountability among policymakers, government, companies and citizens through the evidence obtained from open data related to mismanagement, governance gaps or blatant corruption.
4) DATA INTERPRETATION
Open data allows different people to analyze the data, interpret and verify the findings in several ways. According to the Mckinsey report, the open data initiative can empower governments, the private sector and NGOs. It is also possible to obtain different values depending on the data use and interpretation. For example, a drug price database was individually interpreted through a case study in South Africa. As a result, people have noticed that it helps patients save on medication.
Briefly, the dissemination of data that machines can easily perceive and accessible to everyone can contribute to efficiency in the private & public sectors and benefit society. For example, eHealth in Ireland uses health data as open data. Through this open data source, citizens can find out which hospital to prefer or which healthcare services are more reasonable in price-quality relation. This will lead to the improvement of impractical hospitals or health policies in the long run. Open data can help achieve a more transparent and efficient order.