Principles

INTERNATIONAL OPEN DATA CHARTER

Open data is digital data that is made available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Summary

The six Charter principles were developed in 2015 by governments, civil society, and experts around the world to represent a globally-agreed set of aspirational norms for how to publish data. Below is an informal explainer of the 6 Principles:

1. Open By Default

This represents a real shift in how government operates and how it interacts with citizens. At the moment we often have to ask officials for the specific information we want. Open by default turns this on its head and says that there should be a presumption of publication for all. Governments need to justify data that’s kept closed, for example for security or data protection reasons. To make this work, citizens must also feel confident that open data will not compromise their right to privacy.

2. Timely and Comprehensive

Open data is only valuable if it’s still relevant. Getting information published quickly and in a comprehensive way is central to its potential for success. As much as possible governments should provide data in its original, unmodified form.

3. Accessible and Usable

Ensuring that data is machine readable and easy to find will make data go further. Portals are one way of achieving this. But it’s also important to think about the user experience of those accessing data, including the file formats that information is provided. Data should be free of charge, under an open license, for example, those developed by Creative Commons.

4. Comparable and Interoperable

Data has a multiplier effect. The more quality datasets you have access to, and the easier it is for them to talk to each other, the more potential value you can get from them. Commonly-agreed data standards play a crucial role in making this happen.

5. For Improved Governance & Citizen Engagement

Open data has the capacity to let citizens (and others in government) have a better idea of what officials and politicians are doing. This transparency can improve public services and help hold governments to account.

6. For Inclusive Development and Innovation

Finally, open data can help spur inclusive economic development. For example, greater access to data can make farming more efficient, or it can be used to tackle climate change. Finally, we often think of open data as just about improving government performance, but there’s a whole universe out there of entrepreneurs making money off the back of open data.


Principles

Preamble
  1. The world is witnessing a significant global transformation, facilitated by technology and digital media, and fueled by data and information. This transformation has enormous potential to foster more transparent, accountable, efficient, responsive, and effective governments and civil society and private sector organizations, and to support the design, delivery, and assessment of sustainable development goals at a global scale.

    Open data is at the center of this global shift.

  2. Building a more prosperous, equitable, and just society requires that governments are transparent and accountable, and that they engage regularly and meaningfully with citizens. Accordingly, there is an ongoing global data revolution that seeks to advance collaboration around key social challenges, provide effective public oversight of government activities, and support innovation, sustainable economic development, and the creation and expansion of effective, efficient public policies and programs.

    Open data is crucial to meeting these objectives.

  3. Open data enables governments, citizens, and civil society and private sector organizations to make better informed decisions. Effective and timely access to data helps individuals and organizations develop new insights and innovative ideas that can generate social and economic benefits, improving the lives of people around the world.

    Open data presents an opportunity that must be seized.

  4. Open data allows user to compare, combine, and follow the connections among different datasets, tracing data across a number of programs and sectors. When data can be effectively combined and compared, it can help highlight trends, identify social and economic challenges and inequities, and benchmark progress in public programs and services.

  5. Open data can empower governments, citizens, and civil society and private sector organizations to work toward better outcomes for public services in areas such as health, education, public safety, environmental protection, human rights, and natural disasters.

  6. Open data can contribute to the generation of inclusive economic growth by supporting the creation and strengthening of new markets, enterprises, and jobs. These benefits can multiply as more civil society and private sector organizations adopt good open data practices and share their own data with the public.

  7. Open data can help improve the flow of information within and among governments, and make government decisions and processes more transparent. Increased transparency promotes accountability and good governance, enhances public debate, and helps combat corruption.

  8. Open data presents opportunities to provide innovative, evidence-based policy solutions and support economic benefits and social development for all members of society. Open data can do this by, for example:

    •  Supporting evidence-based policy making: Encouraging governments’ use of data in policy development and evidence-based dWe will develop action plans or identify existing mechanisms or policies in support of the implementation of the Charter principles and associated resources. We agree to commit the necessary resources to work within our political and legal frameworks to implement these principles in accordance with the technical best practices and time frames set out in our action plans.We will develop action plans or identify existing mechanisms or policies in support of the implementation of the Charter principles and associated resources. We agree to commit the necessary resources to work within our political and legal frameworks to implement these principles in accordance with the technical best practices and time frames set out in our action plans.ecision-making, which enables improved public policy outcomes and underpins sustainable economic and social development;

    • Enabling cross-sector collaboration: Supporting collaboration among governments, citizens, and civil society and private sector organizations on the design of policies and the delivery of better public services;

    • Following the money: Showing how and where public money is spent, which incentivizes governments to demonstrate that they are using public money effectively;

    • Improving governance of natural resources: Increasing awareness about how countries’ natural resources are used, how extractives revenues are spent, and how land is transacted and managed;

    • Monitoring impact: Supporting assessments of the impact of public programs, which in turn allows governments and civil society and private sector organizations to respond more effectively to the particular needs of local communities.

    • Promoting equitable growth: Supporting sustainable and inclusive growth through the creation and strengthening of markets, enterprises, and jobs;

    • Geolocating data: Providing geospatial and earth observation references, which support comparability and interoperability and effective analysis by allowing data to be layered geographically;

    • Improved decision-making: Enabling citizens to make better informed choices about the services they receive and the service standards they should expect.

    • When used in these ways, open data is a key public good which people can use to generate value, insights, ideas, and services to create a better world for all.

  9. We, the adherents to the International Open Data Charter, recognize that governments and other public sector organizations hold vast amounts of data that may be of interest to citizens, and that this data is an underused resource. Opening up government data can encourage the building of more interconnected societies that better meet the needs of our citizens and allow innovation, justice, transparency, and prosperity to flourish, all while ensuring civic participation in public decisions and accountability for governments.MORE INFO

  10. We therefore agree to follow a set of six principles that will be the foundation for access to data and for the release and use of data. These principles mandate that data should be:

    1. Open by Default
    2. Timely and Comprehensive
    3. Accessible and Usable
    4. Comparable and Interoperable
    5. For Improved Governance and Citizen Engagement
    6. For Inclusive Development and Innovation
    MORE INFO

     

  11. We will develop action plans or identify existing mechanisms or policies in support of the implementation of the Charter principles and associated resources. We agree to commit the necessary resources to work within our political and legal frameworks to implement these principles in accordance with the technical best practices and time frames set out in our action plans. MORE INFO

  12. This Charter has been developed with a view to adoption by governments of all levels and by multilateral institutions. While the focus of the Charter is on open government data, other organizations, such as those from civil society or the private sector, are also welcome to adopt these principles. MORE INFO


Principle 1 – Open by Default

  1. We recognize that the term “government data” includes, but is not limited to, data held by national, regional, local, and city governments, international governmental bodies, and other types of institutions in the wider public sector. The term government data could also apply to data created for governments by external organizations, and data of significant benefit to the public that is held by external organizations and related to government programs and services (e.g. data on extractives entities, data on transportation infrastructure, etc.)

  2. We recognize that free access to, and subsequent use of, government data is of significant value to society and the economy, and that government data should, therefore, be open by default.

  3. We acknowledge the need to promote the global development and adoption of resources, standards, and policies for the creation, use, exchange, and harmonization of open data.

  4. We recognize that open data can only be unlocked when citizens are confident that open data will not compromise their right to privacy, and that citizens have the right to influence the collection and use of their own personal data or of data generated as a result of their interactions with governments.

  5. We will:

    1. Develop and adopt policies and practices to ensure that all government data is made open by default, as outlined in this Charter, while recognizing that there are legitimate reasons why some data cannot be released;
    2. Provide clear justifications as to why certain data cannot be released;MORE INFO
    3. Establish a culture of openness, not only through legislative and policy measures, but also with the help of training and awareness programs, tools, guidelines, and communication strategies designed to make government, civil society, and private sector representatives aware of the benefits of open data;MORE INFO
    4. Develop the leadership, management, oversight, performance incentives, and internal communication policies necessary to enable this transition to a culture of openness in all government departments and agencies, including official statistics organizations;MORE INFO
    5. Observe domestic laws and internationally recognized standards, in particular those pertaining to security, privacy, confidentiality, and intellectual property. Where relevant legislation or regulations do not exist or are out of date, they will be created and/or updated;MORE INFO
    6. In accordance with privacy legislation and standards, anonymize data prior to its publication, ensuring that sensitive, personally-identifiable data is removed.MORE INFO

Principle 2 – Timely and Comprehensive

  1. We recognize that it may require time and human and technical resources to identify data for release or publication. MORE INFO

  2. We recognize the importance of consulting with data users, including citizens, other governments, and civil society and private sector organizations to identify which data to prioritize for release and/or improvement. MORE INFO

  3. We recognize that in order to be valuable to governments, citizens, and civil society and private sector organizations, data must be comprehensiveaccurate, and of high quality. MORE INFO

  4. We will:

    1. Create, maintain, and share public, comprehensive lists of data holdings to support meaningful consultations around data prioritization, publication, and release dates; MORE INFO
    2. Release high-quality open data in a timely manner, without undue delay. Data will be comprehensive and accurate, and released in accordance with prioritization that is informed by consultations with open data users, including citizens, other governments, and civil society and private sector organizations; MORE INFO
    3. To the extent possible, release data in its original, unmodified form, and link data to any relevant guidance, documentation, visualizations, or analyses; MORE INFO
    4. To the extent possible, release data that is disaggregated to the lowest levels of administration, including disaggregation by gender, age, income, and other categories; MORE INFO
    5. Allow users to provide feedback, and continue to make revisions to ensure data quality is improved as necessary; MORE INFO
    6. Apply consistent information lifecycle management practices, and ensure historical copies of datasets are preserved, archived, and kept accessible as long as they retain value; MORE INFO
    7. Consult data users on significant changes to the structure or supply of data in order to minimize the impact to users that have created tools based on open data; MORE INFO
      1. Be transparent about our own data collection, standards, and publishing processes by documenting these processes online. MORE INFO

Principle 3 – Accessible and Usable

  1. We recognize that opening up data enables governments, citizens, and civil society and private sector organizations to make better informed decisions. MORE INFO

  2. We recognize that when open data is released, it should be easily discoverable and accessible, and made available without bureaucratic or administrative barriers, which can deter people from accessing the data. MORE INFO

  3. We will:

    1. Publish data on a central portal, so that open data is easily discoverable and accessible in one place; MORE INFO
    2. Release data in open formats to ensure that the data is available to the widest range of users to find, access, and use. In many cases, this will include providing data in multiple, standardized formats, so that it can be processed by computers and used by people; MORE INFO
    3. Release data free of charge, under an open and unrestrictive license;MORE INFO
    4. Release data without mandatory registration, allowing users to choose to download data without being required to identify themselves; MORE INFO
    5. Ensure data can be accessed and used effectively by the widest range of users.
      This may require the creation of initiatives to raise awareness of open data, promote data literacybuild capacity for effective use of open data, and ensure citizen, community, and civil society and private sector representatives have the tools and resources they need to effectively understand how public resources are used. MORE INFO

Principle 4 – Comparable and Interoperable

  1. We recognize that in order to be most effective and useful, data should be easy to compare within and between sectors, across geographic locations, and over time.

  2. We recognize that data should be presented in structured and standardized formats to support interoperability, traceability, and effective reuse.

  3. We will:

    1. Implement consistent, open standards related to data formats, interoperability, structure, and common identifiers when collecting and publishing data; MORE INFO
    2. Ensure that open datasets include consistent core metadata and are made available in human- and machine-readable formats;MORE INFO
    3. Ensure that data is fully described, that all documentation accompanying data is written in clear, plain language, and that data users have sufficient information to understand the source, strengths, weaknesses, and analytical limitations of the data;MORE INFO
    4. Engage with domestic and international standards bodies and other standard setting initiatives to encourage increased interoperability between existing international standards, support the creation of common, global data standards where they do not already exist, and ensure that any new data standards we create are, to the greatest extent possible, interoperable with existing standards;MORE INFO
    5. Engage with domestic and international standards bodies and other standard setting initiatives to encourage increased interoperability between existing international standards, support the creation of common, global data standards where they do not already exist, and ensure that any new data standards we create are, to the greatest extent possible, interoperable with existing standards;MORE INFO

Principle 5 – For Improved Governance and Citizen Engagement

  1. We recognize that the release of open data strengthens the governance of and trust in our public institutions, reinforces governments’ obligation to respect the rule of law, and provides a transparent and accountable foundation to improve decision-making and enhance the provision of public services. MORE INFO

  2. We recognize that open data encourages better development, implementation, and assessment of programs and policies to meet the needs of our citizens, and enables civic participation and better informed engagement between governments and citizens. MORE INFO

  3. We recognize that engagement and consultation with citizens and civil society and private sector organizations can help governments understand which types of data are in high demand, and, in turn, can lead to improved data prioritization, release, and standardization practices. MORE INFO

  4. We recognize that city or local governments are often the first point of interaction between citizens and government, and that these governments therefore have a crucial role in supporting citizen engagement on open data. MORE INFO

  5. We will:

    1. Implement oversight and review processes to report regularly to the public on the progress and impact of our open data initiatives;MORE INFO
    2. Ensure that information published as a result of transparency or anticorruption laws is released as open data;MORE INFO
    3. Provide training programs, tools, and guidelines designed to ensure government employees are capable of using open data effectively in policy development processes;MORE INFO
    4. Engage with the Freedom of Information / Access to Information / Right to Information community to align the proactive release of open data with governments’ obligation to release information on request;MORE INFO
    5. Engage proactively with citizens and civil society and private sector representatives to determine what data they need to effectively hold governments accountable;MORE INFO
    6. Respect citizens’ right to freedom of expression by protecting those who use open data to identify corruption or criticize governments;MORE INFO
    7. Encourage the use of open data to develop innovative, evidence-based policy solutions that benefit all members of society, as well as empower marginalized communities.MORE INFO

Principle 6 – For Inclusive Development and Innovation

  1. We recognize the importance of openness in stimulating creativity and innovation. The more governments, citizens, and civil society and private sector organizations use open data, the greater the social and economic benefits that will be generated. This is true for government, commercial, and non-commercial uses.MORE INFO

  2. We recognize that open data can help to identify social and economic challenges, and monitor and deliver sustainable development programs. Open data can also help meet global challenges such as poverty, hunger, climate change, and inequality.MORE INFO

  3. We recognize that open data is, by its nature, an equitable resource that empowers all people by allowing them to access data regardless of who they are or where they live. However, we also recognize the existence of a global digital divide in regard to technological tools and expertise; this divide limits the ability of socially and economicallymarginalized people to access and use open data.MORE INFO

  4. We recognize the role of governments in promoting innovation and sustainable development does not end with the release of open data. Governments must also play an active role in supporting the effective and innovative reuse of open data, and ensuring government employees, citizens, and civil society and private sector organizations have the data they need and the tools and resources to understand and use that data effectively..MORE INFO

  5. We will:

    1. Encourage citizens, civil society and private sector organizations, and multilateral institutions to open up data created and collected by them in order to move toward a richer open data ecosystem with multiple sources of open data;MORE INFO
    2. Create or explore potential partnerships between governments and with civil society and private sector organizations and multilateral institutions to support the release of open data and maximize the impact of data through effective use;MORE INFO
    3. Create or support programs and initiatives that foster the development or co-creation of datasets, visualizations, applications, and other tools based on open data;MORE INFO
    4. Engage with schools and post-secondary education institutions to support increased open data research and to incorporate data literacy into educational curricula; MORE INFO
    5. Conduct or support research on the social and economic impacts of open data;MORE INFO
    6. Build capacity and share technical expertise and experience with other governments and international organizations around the world, ensuring that everyone can reap the benefits of open data;MORE INFO
    7. Empower a future generation of data innovators inside and outside government by building capacity and encouraging developers, entrepreneurs, civil society and private sector organizations, academics, media representatives, government employees, and other users to unlock the value of open data.MORE INFO

The principles and provisions in this Charter are aspirational in nature. The Open Data Charter is not legally binding under international or domestic law and therefore does not create legal rights or obligations. Accordingly, “adherents” as used in this paragraph is understood to mean that those governments that have adopted the Charter support its principles and commitments.

The principles in this Charter are aspirational in nature. Governments that adopt the Charter support the Charter’s principles, which represent the “best case” for open data implementation, and provide governments with a series of expectations and deliverables that they can work to achieve in the course of open data implementation. The Open Data Charter is not a binding document under international or domestic law. Rather, it is a mechanism for governments to publicly demonstrate their commitment to open data and measure progress against defined goals and deliverables. Accordingly, “agree” as used in this paragraph is understood to mean that the language in this paragraph does not impose any binding legal requirements on governments that have adopted the Charter. Each Charter principle represents a series of commitments by governments adopting the Charter. The annotated text below is designed to help governments and support implementation by providing guidance and clarification on Charter principles. No part of this annotated text should be considered as an additional commitment by governments adopting the Charter. The annotated text is an enabling resource, providing guidance and offering examples of good practices for governments.

Governments should publish an action plan to provide more specific details on plans to release data according to the principles set out in the Charter. Governments should report regularly on their progress in implementing their open data action plan. For countries that are members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the publication every two years of an OGP National Action Plan can be recognized as that government’s open data action plan, and assessed against the principles set out in the Charter.

For more information regarding Charter adoption and endorsement, including a full list of governments that have adopted and organizations that have endorsed Charter principles, please visit www.OpenDataCharter.net

When data is withheld and not released openly, governments may provide general information on the reasons why data is withheld. In governments where there is a Freedom of Information / Access to Information framework, legitimate aims which may justify non disclosure could be based on the FOI law. Such exceptions would be narrowly drawn and time limited in the law. As a best practice, governments should seek to explain how the disclosure of relevant data would cause substantial harm to the public interest. This process may be supported by the creation and publication of comprehensive lists of government data holdings (see Principle 2, Paragraph 4a).

Where applicable, governments may establish a pan-government coordination framework that encompasses departments and agencies across central, regional, and/or local governments,with the aim of developing and implementing coherent open data policies, principles, standards, and best practices. Governments may also work collaboratively with representatives of civil society and/or private sector organizations to ensure that open data initiatives meet citizens’ needs and expectations. Governments may identify or create a specific department or agency responsible for the implementation of open data policies as well as relevant laws, regulations, and guidelines. This coordinating body should take steps to support engagement and collaboration across all government departments and agencies.

Governments may establish performance incentives, provide training programs, develop management tools, and/or publish guides and documentation to define openness and support the implementation of a culture of openness in all parts of government.

Relevant national and international laws and regulations may impact the open release of government data. Governments should ensure that relevant laws and regulations, including laws on privacy and access to information, are updated regularly. These laws and regulations should reflect modern technological realities and international best practices. For further information regarding privacy and personal data, see the Annotated Text of Principle 1, Paragraph 4.

Prior to the publication of data, governments should evaluate its sensitivity and risks to individuals’ privacy, and where appropriate, take steps consistent with privacy laws, policies, and best practices, ensuring that data is anonymised so that individuals can no longer be identified in the resulting data, either on its own or in combination with other data. Governments may also conduct analyses to assess the risk of re-identification of individuals in the future. For further information regarding privacy and personal data, see the Annotated Text of Principle 1, Paragraph 4.

While the primary goal of governments should be to release data as early as possible, capacity and resource limitations may require governments to prioritize data for ongoing release. This is particularly true for governments that are in the early stages of implementing open data initiatives. As open data initiatives mature, ‘open by default’ processes can help to ensure data is collected and maintained in ways that allow governments to make data open as a matter of course.

Consultations on dataset prioritization may be conducted in a number of ways, including online polls or discussions, in-person consultation sessions, or by providing a feature on data portals allowing users to suggest a dataset they would like opened up. Governments may choose to prioritize data based on its popularity in consultations (i.e. many citizens or organizations ask for the data). Governments may also prioritize data that has been requested by a smaller number of citizens or organizations, but which private sector or civil society representatives or members of the public have demonstrated to have particular economic or social value (e.g. datasets identified as potential basis for apps or accountability reports). Requests for information via Freedom of Information, Access to Information, or Right to Information laws may also be a source for measuring what data is in demand.

See definition of “Comprehensive” in the Charter Key Terms and Definitions document. Data that is comprehensive is both complete and detailed, without significant gaps or missing data elements. Data that is “accurate” is both complete and correct, and is reflective of the most current information available at the time of their publication. “High quality” data should be fully described using consistent, standardized metadata, and should not contain errors or omissions.

Lists of all datasets currently held by the government and its departments and ministries can be used to support public consultation on the prioritization of data for release. Lists should include basic information regarding datasets (e.g. title, source, etc.), and the lists themselves should be “open by default”.

Governments’ primary responsibility is to release open data as soon as possible, without undue delay. Delays in the opening up of datasets may occur due to quality checks or the need to review data to ensure it does not violate laws or policies related to security, privacy, and confidentiality. The release of open data should be prioritized based on input from key stakeholders (for more information see Annotated Text for Principle 2, paragraph 2).

In some cases, data may need to be anonymized or redacted to meet privacy, security, and confidentiality requirements (for more information see Annotated Text for Principle 1, paragraph 5f), or adjusted to ensure that it is complete and accurate prior to release. Datasets are often used by governments to develop various types of documentation and information (reports, infographics, graphs). Datasets may also deal with matters that are more fully contextualized by supplementary documentation (e.g. background notes). To the extent possible, datasets should be linked to this documentation, and vice versa.

See definition of “Disaggregated” in the Charter Key Terms and Definitions document. To aggregate data is to compile and summarize data; to disaggregate data is to break down aggregated data into component parts or smaller, more detailed units of data. Disaggregation allows users to view relevant data for different categories. Data can, for example, be disaggregated by age, allowing users to view relevant data broken down by ages or age categories. The term is most often applied to national statistics data. Governments should, to the greatest extent possible, provide data that is disaggregated.

Governments may wish to conduct public consultations on data quality issues, or provide contact information or suggestion forms to allow data users to provide feedback online.

Lifecycle information management practices are any practices or policies related to the creation, retention, archiving, or disposition of data or information. Often known as “recordkeeping” practices, these are used to ensure that valuable data is not deleted and can be easily accessed when needed. When determining what data retain value, and for how long, governments may consider whether that data is valuable to governments themselves (e.g. data may impact current government decision-making processes), as well as whether it might be valuable to citizens and civil society or private sector organizations (e.g. data may support ongoing accountability mechanisms and reports). As a best practice, information lifecycle management practices and relevant considerations should be open and transparent to the public (for more information see Annotated text for Principle 2, Paragraph 4h)

As open data is frequently used to support the development of apps and tools, governments may allow users to sign up to receive notifications when particular datasets are changed or updated.
Since many data-based apps and tools “scrape” data from existing datasets, significant changes to the structure of the data (e.g. changes to levels of data disaggregation) or data supply (e.g. data updated annually instead of weekly) could have major impacts on these tools. Governments should therefore take steps to ensure users are informed of changes to datasets in order to ensure these changes would not have unforeseen negative impacts. To ensure data users understand what updates and changes have been made, governments may indicate in dataset descriptions when updates or amendments are made or whether there is a regular schedule for updating the dataset.

Data users should be able to easily understand how the data they are using is gathered, hosted, published, and reviewed for quality and accuracy.

Open data supports better informed decision-making outside government by allowing organizations and individuals to have a clearer idea of how government makes decisions, creates policy, and delivers services. Open data also supports better informed decision making within government by breaking down silos between departments. Rather than having to track down the relevant official and request information, government employees can take the initiative to seek out and use the data they require.

Open data should be easy to find, including through online search engines. Open data should also be accessible without bureaucratic barriers. For example, users should not have to submit a request and wait for an individual approval by government officials in order to access data.

A portal may be a central website from which data can be downloaded, or a website which lists all open government data and links to datasets stored at a different location, as well as accompanying support services for providers and users of open data. Portals typically include a registry file that lists all the data and metadata used on the portal, as well as providing APIs for developers. Where it is yet not possible to publish all data via an online portal, the location of data should be communicated clearly and data should not be moved without notice. The overall aim is to ensure all open datasets can be accessed from the same place, facilitating discovery and use.

Open data should be made available in formats that ensure it can be read and manipulated by either machines or humans (machine-readable and human-readable). Open formats are those which do not require proprietary software in order to be used. When open data is released in open formats, it helps to ensure that it can be accessed and used by anyone, regardless of whether they have a certain type of software program. For more information, see the Open Data Charter’s list of open format types (to be linked once complete)

See definition of “Open and unrestrictive license” in the Charter Key Terms and Definitions document. Licenses should be published and linked to open data to ensure data users can easily find and understand the conditions of data access and reuse.

Mandatory registration, requiring users to create an account or register their identity prior to accessing open datasets, is a barrier to data access. This is particularly true in cases where governments require users to register using their real identity, or request users prove their identity or citizenship prior to accessing data. By requiring users to register, governments may dissuade some individuals from using open data for fear that their activity could be monitored or they may be subject to reprisals if the data is used to criticize government. Note, however, that governments may offer users the​ ​option to register if they choose, as this may facilitate certain functionalities (e.g. allowing users to request notifications if a particular dataset is updated, or allowing users to participate in online message board discussions on open data).

Governments may provide educational and training resources for citizens, government employees, and civil society and private sector representatives to ensure they have the skills necessary to access, read, understand, and manipulate data. Governments may likewise work to ensure that all citizens have affordable access to computers and to the internet. Governments may also identify ways to make open data available to communities “offline”, including through community billboards, media advertisements,or community radio.

Open data provides a snapshot of a particular moment in time. Individual data points, in and ofthemselves, rarely demonstrate the effectiveness of a government program or service, or provide evidence to support policy-making. However, the comparison of data across different axes (time, location, sector, project, etc.) can support the outcomes above. For example, knowing that a country has 6.3 million students enrolled in primary and secondary schools in a particular year does not provide the same level of context or understanding as being able to view the number of students enrolled over the course of the previous ten years, or the number of enrolled students who complete a secondary school diploma. By making this data comparable over time, governments can help users to identify trends and assess the effectiveness of government activities.

Data should be comparable (over time, across organizations, etc.) as well as interoperable. This means ensuring that two datasets generated in completely different contexts (e.g. by different departments in different years) will have a sufficient level of data standardization to allow the data within those datasets to be easily compared by users. The publication of data in structured, standardized formats can allow users to compare and contrast data, trace data points over time and across projects, and create effective, meaningful data analyses to support policy decisions.

Datasets may deal with matters that are more fully contextualized by supplementary documentation (e.g. background notes). To the extent possible, datasets should be linked to this documentation, and the documentation provided should be written in clear, plain language so that the average user can understand its general meaning. This documentation can help users to better understand the context in which datasets were created, as well as other factors that may impact analysis or comparisons using the data.

It is important for governments to engage with domestic and international standards bodies to understand what data standards already exist, how widely they have already been adopted and implemented, and how they can be improved or evolved over time. The more governments strive to align their internal data standards with existing domestic and international standards, the more government data will be easy to compare within and between sectors, across locations, and over time, supporting increased social and economic value as well as greater transparency and accountability. It is likewise important for governments to engage in discussions with external standards bodies to understand the limitations of certain data standards and suggest improvements or changes based on governments’ own experiences.

Governments can contribute to international conversations on data standards by mapping their own internal standards to existing international standards and identifiers, in order to identify overlap and signal gaps or discrepancies between data standards. By sharing these results publicly, governments can support the process of refining and improving international standards, while simultaneously providing “lessons learned” for other governments seeking to implement similar standards. In cases where it is not feasible to transition to an international standard, creating a public mapping between the local and international standards enables some interoperability between the local and international datasets.

Open data on government activities is essential to ensuring long term accountability for governments, as well as providing the highest level of quality services and programs for citizens.The long-term potential for increased public trust ingovernment institutions far outweighs the risk of potential criticism on the effectiveness of government policies. For citizens, open data represents the possibility of holding governments to account. For governments, open data represents the possibility of increasing citizens’ trust in them, and at the same time identifying inefficiencies and improving public programs and services.

Open data allows governments themselves to have a more complete picture of the complex work behind the delivery of all government programs and services. Likewise, it offers civil society and private sector organizations, as well as individual entrepreneurs, the opportunity to understand how government services are delivered, and propose alternative solutions that may improve outcomes or reduce costs. Finally, open government data supports better informed engagement between citizens and governments, empowering citizens to hold governments to account, and encouraging governments to listen thoughtfully and open up dialogue with citizens and organizations.

For more information on government consultations and dataset prioritization, see Annotated Text of Principle 2, paragraph 2.

City and local governments are often responsible for the delivery of programs and services that citizens use or encounter in their daily lives (e.g. sanitation services, public transportation, traffic regulations, etc.). As such, city and local governments have an important role to play in engaging citizens on issues related to open data, and in encouraging citizens to seek out information about open data initiatives at all levels of government, in order to support better informed public engagement. The value of city or local government data can also be amplified when it is combined or compared with national-level data.

Governments may choose to report on progress via existing open government or open data action plans (e.g. Open Government Partnership National Action Plan). Regular progress reports should be made public to encourage review and accountability.

Many laws include requirements for governments to publish information regarding programs, services, or other activities in order to support transparency and combat corruption. Information published as a result of these legal requirements should be published as open data. This applies only to information or data that would otherwise be made public (e.g. in cases where elected officials must legally disclose their expenses, those expenses should be published as open data).

In order to realize the full value of open data, governments should not only rely on external organizations to reuse and analyze open government data. Training programs, tools, and guidelines for government employees will ensure that, once data is open and available, it is also used effectively by governments themselves to assess the effectiveness of government programs and services and support better informed, evidence-based policy making.

The terms Freedom of Information, Access to Information, and Right to Information are all used here to refer to the same general community of stakeholders, which is known by different names in different parts of the world. Many governments have laws governing the release of government data and information upon request by citizens or organizations. Because there is no obligation in international law to release information on request, or for access to information, this principle is construed to apply to governments’ applicable obligations to release certain information on request. In cases where governments may be required to release certain information when it is requested, the preferred approach would be for governments to open up that information or data proactively, allowing for more timely analysis and reducing administrative burden on government departments or agencies. Governments may engage with internal and/or external stakeholders focused on Freedom of Information / Access to Information / Right to Information to support the proactive release of information that would otherwise only be released on request, and to ensure that laws governing Freedom of Information / Access to Information / Right to Information are reflective of relevant open government data initiatives.

For more information on government consultations and dataset prioritization, see Annotated Text of Principle 2, paragraph 2.

The reuse of open government data may sometimes empower citizens or organizations to criticize the government for activities or policies perceived to be inefficient or ineffective. However, governments should not prosecute individuals or organizations critical of government policies, programs or services. Individuals or organizations wishing to remain anonymous should have the option to access, download, use, and republish open data without being required to identify themselves to government officials.

While the potential economic benefits of open data (e.g. from app generation or identifying financial efficiencies) are significant, the social benefits are likewise important. Open data can be used to review the effectiveness of government programs and services by analyzing whether deliverables and targets were achieved within expected timeframes. This allows citizens and civil society and private sector organizations to hold governments accountable for the quality of services they provide, particularly to marginalized communities. It also helps governments to understand whether their policies are effectively reaching such communities. Marginalized communities may include, but are not limited to: Indigenous peoples, ethnic or religious minority groups, women, impoverished people, persons with disabilities, and others.

Often, government datasets are withheld rather than being released openly. Datasets then remain locked in a ministry or agency computer system to be viewed only by a handful of officials. When data can be accessed and used by citizens, it can drive entrepreneurship, innovation and social problem solving - increasing its economic and social value exponentially. The more people and organizations are looking at open government datasets, the greater the chance for one of them to identify an innovative policy or solution, or to identify new potential efficiencies in program or service delivery. Likewise, open data represents a knowledge sharing opportunity, allowing individuals and organizations to collaborate on innovative or entrepreneurial projects.

Open data allows citizens and civil society and private sector organizations to hold governments accountable for the delivery of policies, programs, and services that address some of the most significant and complex problems facing our world today. By providing the public with robust information about the status of commitments and deliverables, governments can ensure not only that they are pursuing effective policies and are accountable for the actions they take, but that non-government experts, entrepreneurs, and advocacy groups are empowered to identify, suggest, and develop their own innovative solutions to major global challenges.

Open data is an equitable resource in the sense that anyone with a minimum level of access to technology can access the same data, regardless of their social or economic status.
However, the qualification of access to technology is not insignificant. Around the world, many individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas lack opportunities to access information and communication technologies such as computers and reliable, affordable internet connections.
This is particularly true for socially and economically marginalized people, who are are in many cases more likely to rely on the types of government programs and services whose efficacy can only be assured when all people have access to open data to support transparency and accountability.

As citizens’ expectations continue to evolve, the release of open data is quickly becoming a minimum level expectation for governments. It is important for governments to work proactively to support users who want to access, analyze, compare, reuse, and republish open data.

Governments may engage with civil society and private sector organizations to encourage these groups to publish data held by them and in open and interoperable formats. Governments may also support the publication of data generated by citizens or co-created in collaboration between governments and citizens. For example, government programs could coordinate volunteer groups who generate open data on local street addresses, supporting improved mapping of community resources and institutions.

Where possible, governments may choose to provide technical support or resources to support organizations wishing to open up their data. Governments may collaborate with civil society or private sector organizations to publish select open datasets on government portals to support comparison of those datasets. In these cases, non-government data (i.e. data provided by organizations external to government) may be clearly marked as such.

See definition of “Co-creation” in the Charter Key Terms and Definitions document. Co-creation is the collaborative development of datasets, or collaborative reuse of existing open datasets to develop applications, programs, and other tools, as well as graphs, infographics, and other visualizations.

In order to ensure individuals have the skills and knowledge required to effectively access, download, manipulate, and compare open government data, governments can, for example, support educational programs that incorporate data literacy into elementary/secondary or post-secondary curricula and/or provide educational resources and classes to support continued education and skills development for individuals already in the work force.

Understanding the direct and indirect social and economic impacts of open data is a complex issue. Governments can help improve the measurement of open data impacts by supporting or conducting research on impact measurement, including metrics and methodologies.

Governments can, for example, identify opportunities for knowledge sharing and peer exchange through intergovernmental institutions and/or multi-stakeholder forums which include governments and non-government organizations. Opportunities may include international summits or conferences, as well as regular meetings of intergovernmental or multi-stakeholder bodies. Governments may also engage in bilateral or regional information exchanges, supporting more targeted peer learning opportunities.

Governments can, for example, support programs that provide funding or technical resources to entrepreneurs and developers who create new products based on open government data. These programs could include hackathons or innovation funds, among others. Governments may also establish or formalize partnerships with other governments or with civil society or private sector organizations to support collaboration on open data initiatives. For example, governments may support co-creation activities, working collaboratively with entrepreneurs and developers on the creation of datasets, programs, applications, and other tools and resources that provide significant public value.