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Open Data and Re-use of Public Sector Information

The terms Open Data and Re-use of Public Sector Information (RPSI) are very closely related. The remit in both cases is to provide society with the raw data produced or held by the administration.

Although these two terms may seem similar, the concept Open Data stems from activism related to free and open knowledge, with its aim being to deliver data in standard open formats (non-proprietary), with no restrictions or payment involved (they should be free). 

In turn, RPSI is a term coined in Europe by those public administrations championing the right to re-use data. This may involve paying for the use of these data, their so-called marginal costs, and they should preferably be disclosed in standard format, although they may be delivered in any format. RPSI has led to the appearance of a new business fabric capable of developing profitable business ideas based on the re-use of information.

Open data

To ensure that proper use is being made of the term open data, these should fulfil two main requirements:

  • Re-usable format: Structured data format that allows for automatic processing.
  • Unrestricted conditions of use: It should be specifically stated that the data may be used freely, or the user licence should allow for their re-use.

The data provided should meet the following specifications:

  • Public: Open data should be of a public nature (involving all those that are not subject to restrictions in terms of privacy, security and copyright).
  • Detailed: The data should be disclosed in their exact original form, loose, unprocessed and maintaining the highest possible level of detail; in other words, as raw data.
  • Updated: The data should be provided to users as often as required to ensure they do not lose their value and remain accurate and timely. The more dynamic the data are, that is, the more frequently they are updated, the more useful they will be.
  • Structure: The data are to be structured in a way that permits their automatic machine processing. This is a very important condition for enabling the data to be automatically re-used.
  • Accessible: The data are to be made accessible to as many users as possible. There should not be any obstacles in the way of all those people that want to use the data, or any restrictions on the intended purpose.
  • Open: The formats for the data should be non-proprietary; in other words, they must not rely on a private entity or on a tool owned by one. For example, CSV and XML are open formats.
  • Interoperable: The data are to be provided in standardised form, using the most widely used formats for each kind of data, whereby any part of the open data may be merged with other open data. This interoperability is absolutely crucial for understanding the main practical benefits of Open Data: greater skill in combining different databases and datasets will lead to the development of more and better products and services.
  • Free: The data should be completely free of charge for users. The data should not therefore be subject to rights, patents, and copyright, or to any privacy or security rights and privileges that may be governed by other rules.
  • Log: Whenever possible, log or past data should also be provided for comparative purpose.
  • Geolocated: Include the geographical coordinates of those resources that so permit.
  • Documented: They are to be accompanied by supporting documents whenever necessary.
  • Anonymous: Whenever they contain personal information that needs to be protected, they should ensure complete anonymity.
  • Enriched with metadata: Metadata are data on data (date of update, source, description, etc.).
  • No registration: The data should be available to the public at large, with no need to log in first.

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