Definitions, glossaries, repositories, and other resources for further exploring the world of open data

Open Data Definitions – What’s in a Name?

1. Open Definition (referenced by Open Data Handbook, ODI, Open Data Census, and OECD Open Data Analytical Framework)

“Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.”

Open Definition

2. The White House, 2013 OMB Memorandum

“Open data refers to publicly available data structured in a way that enables the data to be fully discoverable and usable by end users.”

The White House, 2013 OMB Memorandum

3. Data.Gov.UK

“Open data is data that is published in an open format, is machine readable and is published under a license that allows for free reuse.”


4. Dbpedia: A nucleus for a web of open data

“Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.”

Dbpedia: A nucleus for a web of open data

5. Open Data Institute

“Open data is information that is available for anyone to use, for any purpose, at no cost. Open data has to have a license that says it is open data. Without a license, the data can’t be reused. These principles for open data are described in detail in the Open Definition.”

Open Data Institute

6. LinkedGov

“Open data is non-personally identifiable data produced in the course of an organization’s ordinary business, which has been released under an unrestricted license. Open public data is underpinned by the philosophy that data generated or collected by organizations in the public sector should belong to the taxpayers, wherever financially feasible and where releasing it won’t violate any laws or rights to privacy (either for citizens or government staff).”


7. McKinsey Global Institute

“Machine-readable information, particularly government data, that’s made available to others. These open datasets share the following 4 characteristics: 1. Accessibility: A wide range of users is permitted to access the data. 2. Machine readability: The data can be processed automatically. 3. Cost: Data can be accessed free or at negligible cost. 4. Rights: Limitations on the use, transformation, and distribution of data are minimal.”

McKinsey Global Institute

8. Open Data Now

“Open Data is accessible public data we can use to launch new ventures, analyze trends, make decisions, and solve problems.”

Open Data Now

9. Open Data Barometer

Excerpt from report indicates that researchers assessed datasets based on the “full Open Definition requirements of being machine readable, accessible in bulk, and openly licensed.”

Open Data Barometer

10. The World Bank

“Data is open if it satisfies both conditions below:

  • Technically open: available in a machine-readable standard format, which means it can be retrieved and meaningfully processed by a computer application
  • Legally open: explicitly licensed in a way that permits commercial and non-commercial use and re-use without restrictions.”

The World Bank

Open Data Definitions: Matrix of Analysis

Open Data Glossaries

Below, we list and describe five key efforts to define the many terms related to open data – from API to XML – with a focus on how the available glossaries differ from one another. Additionally Becky Hogge’s “Open Data: Six Stories About Impact in the UK,” also commissioned by Omidyar Network, offers a glossary of terms related to open data and the six initiatives she studied.6

Source Description Terms Distinguishing Characteristics

Glossary of Terms
Distinguishing Characteristics
Definitions sourced from a diversity of linked secondary sources. Categories of definitions for general terms and for terms related to metadata.
This glossary is intended to be an authoritative explanation of the meaning of technical terms, for all users of Users are encouraged to improve it by suggesting a better way of explaining the definitions, and by adding new definitions.
Distinguishing Characteristics
“Search for Term” functionality allowing the user to find instances of the term in the catalog. Ability to suggest a new term.

Open Data Handbook

Distinguishing Characteristics
The most extensive glossary focusing exclusively on open data. Available in 20 languages.

Project Open Data

This section contains explanations of common terms referenced in Project Open Data and the Open Data Policy.
Distinguishing Characteristics
Generated through crowdsourced, wiki functionality, allowing users to edit the glossary and view its revision history.

Gartner IT Glossary

IT Glossary is your trusted guide to exploring technology terms and definitions, from the world’s leading IT research and advisory company.
Distinguishing Characteristics
Glossary for all manner of information technologies, not just open data. Search and alphabetical browsing functionalities. Related research displayed for terms. Term of the Day.

Open Data Repositories



Open data portals have been increasingly used by local, city and national governments to release data in open and reusable formats. These portals have encouraged the increased use of open government data and led to the development of applications, new products and services.

Launched at the 2011 Open Knowledge Foundation Conference in Berlin, curates a list of over 400 open data portals from around the world, including and New Zealand’s Open Data Case Studies. These portals specifically also provide a collection of case studies on how these portals have been used and contributed to social impact.

United States – Impact Case Studies

In addition to providing access to numerous government data sets, the site also highlights examples of open data impact, including impact in “cost savings, efficiency, fuel for business, improved civic services, informed policy, performance planning, research and scientific discoveries, transparency and accountability, and increased public participation in the democratic dialogue.”

New Zealand – Open Data Case Studies

New Zealand’s Office of the Chief Information Office provides a list of case studies that highlight “the innovative implementation of government ICT initiatives, the successful contribution to the delivery of ICT functional leadership, and the impact of innovative re-use of open government data.” The portal showcases over 30 open data case studies from 2012 to 2015 across various open data use categories, including apps and tools; new skills; central government releases; statistics; and local government releases.


Several Open Data intermediaries have also developed a set of client-studies, including:

CKAN Case Studies

The CKAN data management platform helps “numerous governments, organisations and communities around the world” catalogue, search and display data.15 The site showcases 116 instances of use across Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, North America and Australasia as well five in-depth case studies from the U.K., the European Union, Helsinki and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

DKAN Case Studies

DKAN is the Drupal-based open source data platform that includes a full suite of cataloging, publishing and visualization features that allows governments, nonprofits and universities to easily publish data to the public. The eight case studies featured on the site present an overview of the client, the project, the goal of the work and the impact of the project.

Esri Case Studies

Esri provides enterprise geographic information systems (GIS) to help its clients “make timely, informed and mission-critical decisions by leveraging the power of geography.”16 Esri provides over 80 case studies on how businesses, government agencies and nonprofits across sectors have used map-based data for decision-making and social impact.

Granicus Case Studies

Granicus manages “the world’s largest and most reliable legislative content network—containing more than 5 million government media files and public records and maintaining a 99.98% uptime track-record.” Granicus provides 30 case studies of cities across the U.S. who are “leveraging their technology to successfully run their day-to-day government information tasks including webcasting public meetings, managing and delivering legislative information, collaborating with citizens, and more.”17

IBM Smarter Cities Case Studies

The IBM Smarter Cities projects “help government leaders manage complex city environments, incidents and emergencies with a city solution that delivers operational insights.”18 Tools from the IBM Intelligent Operations Center (US) offer integrated data visualization, near real-time collaboration and deep analytics to help city agencies enhance the ongoing efficiency of city operations, plan for growth and coordinate and manage response efforts. The aim of the initiative is to help power more collaborative working relationships across businesses, industries and state and town lines – and draw in an ever more active and engaged citizenry.19 There are five in-depth interactive case studies from cities around the world available with details on what IBM did and how they did it.

Microsoft Case Studies

Microsoft open government solutions “allows governments to reach and interact with citizens when and where they need through secure and effective data sharing and open access across mixed technology environments.” The solutions help to “provide effective information between various government agencies and with constituents while not sacrificing security and privacy.”20 The diverse case studies set out the business needs of the organization (including governments, nonprofit organization and companies), the solution developed by Microsoft and the benefits of the initiative.

Socrata Case Studies

The Socrata case studies provide descriptions of Socrata-led initiatives with governments at the municipal (e.g., Boston), state (e.g., Hawaii) and federal levels (e.g., Spain). Each of the 29 case studies provides a description of the initiative, why it was developed and the main highlights of the project.

Open Data Resources


6 Hogge, Becky. “Open Data: Six Stories About Impact in the UK.” Omidyar Network. November 2015. https://www.omidyar. com/sites/default/ les/ le_archive/insights/Open%20Data_Six%20Stories%20About%20Impact%20in%20the%20UK/ OpenData_CaseStudies_Report_complete_DIGITAL_102715.pdf