Open Data

Open data is defined as data which is publicly available for anyone to use and is licensed in a way that allows for its re-use. The common requirement that open data be machine-readable not only means thatdata is distributed via the Internet in a digitized form, but can also be processed by computers through automation, ensuring both wide dissemination and ease of re-use.
While there is no single universally accepted definition of open data, the following synthesis of the most common definitions captures the essence of the concept:

Open data is publicly available data that can be universally and readily accessed, used, and redistributed free of charge. Open data is released in ways that protects private, personal or proprietary information. It is structured for usability and computability.

Open Data @ The GovLab: As part of its core mission, the GovLab has been engaged in a series of ongoing projects and research on open data. They include:

  • Open Data 500:
    Coordinated by The GovLab, the Open Data 500 Global Network is an international network of organizations that seek to study the use and impact of open data. The OD500 Global Network enables participating organizations to analyze open data in their country in a manner that is both globally comparative and domestically specific. The OD500 Global Network starts from the assumption that only by mapping the use of Open Data within and across countries can new approaches for understanding the economic and social impact of open government data be generated.In 2014, The GovLab launched Open Data 500 United States (, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The OD500 was the first comprehensive study of U.S.-based companies that use open government data as a key business resource. The study provides a way to map and visualize the relationships between companies and open government datasets, as well as to conduct other sector-by-sector analyses.

    New studies include:

    Although the open data ecosystem varies from country to country, we adopt a common approach and platform to enable the comparative study of the use of open government data by businesses anywhere in the world. Participation in the Network provides countries and organizations a way to collect, analyze, and display information on the economic impact of open data in their regions; allows for cross-country comparison; and invites them into a research and practice community developing innovative tools and methodologies for understanding the economic impact of open data.

    To find out more about how companies are using open government data, or how to conduct a study in your country, please visit

  • NHS Open Data in Health & Social Care:
    NHS England and The GovLab at New York University have jointly created a blueprint – The Open Data Era in Health and Social Care – to accelerate the use of open data in healthcare settings.The blueprint suggests ways to enable a conversation about how the health and care system can maximize the impact of sharing open data through establishing priorities and clear ways of measuring benefits.The blueprint suggests a framework to review the potential for open data in:

    • Holding healthcare organizations and providers accountable for treatment outcomes.
    • Enabling patients to make informed choices from among the healthcare options available to them.
    • Improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of delivering healthcare.
    • Improving treatment outcomes.
    • Educating patients and their families and make healthcare institutions more responsive.
    • Fueling new healthcare companies and innovation.
  • The GovLab Selected Readings on Open Data:
    As part of an ongoing effort to build a knowledge base for the field of opening governance by organizing and disseminating its learnings, the GovLab Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended works on key opening governance topics. We start our series with a focus on Open Data.
  • The GovLab Digest:
    A curated selection of major developments, findings, and views related to how we improve people’s lives by changing how we govern, delivered weekly.
  • The GovLab Academy:
    Thanks to the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The GovLab Academy – a training program designed to promote civic engagement and innovation – has launched a series of free online project coaching programs.The Coaching Programs are hands-on, project-driven mentoring programs designed to help teams or individuals, both inside and outside of government, move public interest projects from idea to implementation. Participants receive individualized feedback, mentoring by topic experts, customized and original learning materials, and peer-to-peer support within a community of people working on similar projects and solving similar problems. Sign up for upcoming programs, including:

    • Open Data Projects: Designed for those (including SMEs) already undertaking open data related projects. We provide coaching and mentoring designed to help you implement your project or take it to scale.
    • Data Collaboratives:  Designed for private sector companies interested in sharing data for public good, together we explore your datasets’ potential to promote social good; understand different governance models for sharing; and evaluate risks and strategies to mitigate them to achieve the highest social impact responsibly.
    • Sensing Our Environment, Sensing Ourselves, Improving Our Lives: This course is geared towards both government officials and policymakers exploring how bottom-up sensor projects can achieve a core mission and technical experts exploring how to get their project implemented.

    For a full list of programs, see