What is Open Data?

Most often, ‘open data’ refers to the idea that data controlled by a government body should be accessible to citizens and other government bodies in a structured format. In an open structured format, computer programs can readily understand and process the data. For example, a CSV is an open structured format, while a PDF is not. Open data policies reduce cost and technology barriers, which limit citizens’ access to government data. The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation publishes best practices for open data policies.

What is an Open Standard?

In the context of open data, an open standard typically refers to a data format whose specification is freely available to be read and implemented by anybody. Data available in an open standard is often the most accessible to analysts, journalists, and programmers, as anybody can access the tools and information needed to work with that data. Because of this, open standards often support competitive markets of applications and organizations that perform similar services on similar types of data.

Do State reports provide access to state data?

Not to the level that open data does. A report published by the state represents a finished presentation of data. The report includes analysis, formatting and layout, and commentary that is meant to be read by people, and often meant to be read by a certain audience. While these presentations of data are valuable, they usually do not provide the raw, structured data required by others who wish to create their own analyses, presentations, or new applications.

Which states officially support open data?

The Sunlight Foundation maintains a list of open data policies. Five states have implemented open data policies including Utah, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. At least eight more states have started the process. At the federal level, the White House has also implemented an open data policy for the executive branch. Within Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have also implemented open data policies.

This FAQ is derived from the Minneapolis Open Data Candidate Questionnaire by Open Twin Cities, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.