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Smart cities

3.1 Open / shared / closed: the world of data

Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’re already benefiting from the world of data.

Learn how, in this video from the Open Data Institute.

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Data is changing our world for the better. It is improving the quality of life for billions of people every day. It's everything from the Excel spreadsheet you use in the office to the citizen science projects that are helping us to beat cancer. And you're feeling the benefits of it right now, even if you don't know it's happening. But in order to get the greatest benefit from all of this data, we must understand how it can be used and how to describe it. Three key terms at the centre of all this opportunity are closed data, shared data, and open data. The difference between closed, shared, and open data is all about who can use data and how.
Open data is data that anyone can access, use, and share. Governments and organisations have opened up access to data such as weather records, earthquake monitoring, and even particle physics, allowing others to use this data and discover new solutions for the benefit of all. But it's not enough to simply release this data. For data to be considered truly open, the owners most clearly state that the other people can use it in any way they like. Without these express permissions, the data cannot be considered open. At the other end of the spectrum, there is closed data. This is data that only people inside an organisation can see.
National security, confidential business reports, and your mobile phone use are all examples of data that organisations keep for themselves. There can be good reasons why data is closed and why we don't want this data to become public. In between these two points is shared data. This is data that is shared with a specific group of people for a specific purpose. It is a broad term that covers a huge amount of the data that is collected every day. Your supermarket shopping habits and the electoral register are just two examples of shared data.
So whenever we think about data, it's important to remember that data is considered closed, shared, or open because of the permission given on how it can be used and published. By understanding where data comes from, who can use it, and what can be done with it, we can seize the opportunities that it gives us. Data is already shaping and changing our world. What will you build?
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Further reading

These stories from the Open Data Institution (ODI) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] show how open data has been used to reveal powerful new insights, to develop innovative new services and to identify significant cost savings.


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