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Do you know exactly how much of your tax money is spent on street lights or on cancer research? What is the shortest, safest and most scenic bicycle route from your home to your work? And what is in the air that you breathe along the way? Where in your region will you find the best job opportunities and the highest number of fruit trees per capita? When can you influence decisions about topics you deeply care about, and whom should you talk to?

New technologies now make it possible to build the services to answer these questions automatically. Much of the data you would need to answer these questions is generated by public bodies. However, often the data required is not yet available in a form which is easy to use. This book is about how to unlock the potential of official and other information to enable new services, to improve the lives of citizens and to make government and society work better.

The notion of open data and specifically open government data - information, public or otherwise, which anyone is free to access and re-use for any purpose - has been around for some years. In 2009 open data started to become visible in the mainstream, with various governments (such as the USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand) announcing new initiatives towards opening up their public information.

This book explains the basic concepts of ‘open data’, especially in relation to government. It covers how open data creates value and can have a positive impact in many different areas. In addition to exploring the background, the handbook also provides concrete information on how to produce open data.

Target Audience

This handbook has a broad audience:

  • for those who have never heard of open data before and those who consider themselves seasoned ‘data professionals’
  • for civil servants and for activists
  • for journalists and researchers
  • for politicians and developers
  • for data geeks and those who have never heard of an API.

Most of the information currently provided is focused on data held by the public sector. However, the authors intentions are to broaden this as time permits. You are welcome to participate to help us with that effort.

This handbook is intended for those with little or no knowledge of the topic. If you do find a piece of jargon or terminology with which you aren’t familiar, please see the detailed Glossary and FAQs (frequently asked questions) which can be found at the end of the handbook.

Contributing authors

Existing sources directly used

  • Technical Proposal for how IATI is implemented. The IATI Technical Advisory Group led by Simon Parrish
  • Unlocking the Potential of Aid Information. Rufus Pollock, Jonathan Gray, Simon Parrish, Jordan Hatcher
  • Finnish manual authored by Antti Poikola
  • Beyond Access Report. Access Info and the Open Knowledge Foundation

Other sources