Centre for Internet & Society

The first public draft of the International Open Data Charter was released at the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, Canada, May 28-29, 2015. It is being developed by a range of organisations led by the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Open Data Working Group (co-chaired by Government of Canada and the Web Foundation), the Government of Mexico, the Open Data for Development (OD4D) Network, and Omidyar Network. CIS has contributed comments to a previous version of the draft, and also took part in the pre-release meeting of potential stewards of the Charter on May 26 in Ottawa. Here is the text of the draft Charter. Please visit opendatacharter.net/charter/ to submit your comments.


Consultation Draft, May 2015




1) The world is witnessing the growth of a global movement facilitated by technology and digital media and fuelled by information – one that contains enormous potential to create more accountable, efficient, responsive, and effective governments and businesses, and to spur economic growth.

Open data sit at the heart of this global movement.

2) Building a more democratic, just, and prosperous society requires transparent, accountable governments that engage regularly and meaningfully with citizens. Accordingly, there is an ongoing effort to enable collaboration around key social challenges, to provide effective oversight of government activities, to support economic development through innovation, and to develop effective, efficient public policies and programmes.

Open data is essential to meeting these challenges.

3) Effective access to data allows individuals and organisations to develop new insights and innovations that can generate social and economic benefits to improve the lives of people around the world, and help to improve the flow of information within and between countries. While governments collect a wide range of data, they do not always share these data in ways that are easily discoverable, useable, or understandable by the public.

This is a missed opportunity.

4) Today, many people expect to be able to access high quality information and services, including government data, when and how they want. Others see the opportunity presented by government data as one which can provide innovative policy solutions and support economic and social benefits for all members of society. We have arrived at a point at which people can use open data to generate value, insights, ideas, and services to create a better world for all.

5) Open data can increase transparency around what government is doing. Open data can also increase awareness about how countries’ natural resources are used, how extractives revenues are spent, and how land is transacted and managed – all of which promotes accountability and good governance, enhances public debate, and helps to combat corruption.

6) Providing access to government data can drive sustainable and inclusive growth by empowering citizens, the media, civil society, and the private sector to identify gaps, and work toward better outcomes for public services in areas such as health, education, public safety, environmental protection, and governance. Open data can do this by:

  • showing how and where public money is spent, which provides strong incentives for governments to demonstrate that they are using public money effectively;
  • supporting citizens, civil society organisations, governments and the private sector to collaborate on the design of policies and the delivery of better public services;
  • supporting assessments of the impact of public programs, which in turn allows governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector to respond more effectively to the particular needs of local communities; and
  • enabling citizens to make better informed choices about the services they receive and the service standards they should expect.

7) Open government data can be used in innovative ways to create useful tools and products that help to navigate modern life more easily. Used in this way, open data are a catalyst for innovation in the private sector, supporting the creation of new markets, businesses, and jobs. These benefits can multiply as more private sector and civil society organisations adopt open data practices modelled by government and share their own data with the public.

8) We, the adherents to the International Open Data Charter, agree that open data are an under-used resource with huge potential to encourage the building of stronger, more interconnected societies that better meet the needs of our citizens and allow innovation and prosperity to flourish.

9) We therefore agree to follow a set of principles that will be the foundation for access to, and the release and use of, open government data. These principles are:

  • Open Data by Default;
  • Quality and Quantity;
  • Accessible and Useable by All;
  • Engagement and Empowerment of Citizens;
  • Collaboration for Development and Innovation;

10) We will develop an action plan in support of the implementation of the Charter and its Technical Annexes, and will update and renew the action plan at a minimum of every two years. 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 timeframes set out in our action plan.


Principle 1: Open Data by Default


11) We recognise that free access to, and the subsequent use of, government data are of significant value to society and the economy, and that government data should, therefore, be open by default.

12) We acknowledge the need to promote the global development and adoption of tools and policies for the creation, use, and exchange of open data and information.

13) We recognise that the term ‘government data’ is meant in the widest sense possible. This could apply to data held by national, federal, and local governments, international government bodies, and other types of institutions in the wider public sector. This could also apply to data created for governments by external organisations, and data of significant benefit to the public which is held by external organisations and related to government programmes and services (e.g. data on extractives entities, data on transportation infrastructure, etc).

14) We recognise that there is domestic and international legislation, in particular pertaining to security, privacy, confidentiality, intellectual property, and personally-identifiable and other sensitive information, which must be observed and/or updated where necessary.

15) We will:

  • develop and adopt policies and practices to ensure that all government data is made open by default, as outlined in this Charter, while recognising that there are legitimate reasons why some data cannot be released;
  • provide clear justifications as to why certain data cannot be released;
  • establish a culture of openness, not only through legislative or policy measures, but also with the help of training and awareness programs, tools, and guidelines designed to make government, civil society, and private sector representatives aware of the benefits of open data; and
  • develop the leadership, management, oversight, and internal communication policies necessary to enable this transition to a culture of openness.


Principle 2: Quality and Quantity


16) We recognise that governments and other public sector organisations hold vast amounts of information that may be of interest to citizens, and that it may take time to identify data for release or publication.

17) We also recognise the importance of consulting with citizens, other governments, non-governmental organisations, and other open data users, to identify which data to prioritise for release and/or improvement.

18) We agree, however, that governments’ primary responsibility should be to release data in a timely manner, without undue delay.

19) We will:

  • create, maintain, and share public, comprehensive lists of data holdings to set the stage for meaningful public discussions around data prioritisation and release;
  • release high-quality open data that are timely, comprehensive, and accurate in accordance with prioritisation that is informed by public requests. To the extent possible, data will be released in their original, unmodified form and at the finest level of granularity available, and will also be linked to any visualisations or analyses created based on the data, as well as any relevant guidance or documentation;
  • ensure that accompanying documentation is written in clear, plain language, so that it can be easily understood by all;
  • make sure that data are fully described, and that data users have sufficient information to understand their source, strengths, weaknesses, and any analytical limitations;
  • ensure that open datasets include consistent core metadata, and are made available in human- and machine-readable formats under an open and unrestrictive licence;
  • allow users to provide feedback, and continue to make revisions to ensure the quality of the data is improved as needed; and
  • apply consistent information lifecycle management practices, and ensure historical copies of datasets are preserved, archived, and kept accessible as long as they retain value.


Principle 3: Accessible and Usable by All


20) We recognise that opening up data enables citizens, governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector to make better informed decisions.

21) We recognise that open data should be made available free of charge in order to encourage their widest possible use.

22) We recognise that when open data are released, they should be made available without bureaucratic or administrative barriers, such as mandatory user registration, which can deter people from accessing the data.

23) We will:

  • release data in open formats and free of charge to ensure that the data are available to the widest range of users to find, access, and use them. In many cases, this will include providing data in multiple formats, so that they can be processed by computers and used by people; and
  • 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 literacy, and build capacity for effective use of open data.


Principle 4: Engagement and Empowerment of Citizens


24) We recognise that the release of open data strengthens our public and democratic institutions, encourages better development, implementation, and assessment of policies to meet the needs of our citizens, and enables more meaningful, better informed engagement between governments and citizens.

25) We will:

  • implement oversight and review processes to report regularly on the progress and impact of our open data initiatives;
  • engage with community and civil society representatives working in the domain of transparency and accountability to determine what data they need to effectively hold governments to account;encourage the use of open data to develop innovative, evidence-based policy solutions that benefit all members of society, as well as empower marginalised groups; and
  • be transparent about our own data collection, standards, and publishing processes, by documenting all of these related processes online.


Principle 5: Collaboration for Development and Innovation


26) We recognise the importance of diversity in stimulating creativity and innovation. The more citizens, governments, civil society, and the private sector use open data, the greater the social and economic benefits that will be generated. This is true for government, commercial, and non-commercial uses.

27) We recognise that the potential value of our open data is greatly increased when it can be used in combination with open data from other governments, the private sector, academic, media, civil society, and other non-governmental organisations.

28) We will:

  • create or explore potential partnerships to support the release of open data and maximise their impact through effective use. This may include local, regional, and global partnerships between governments, civil society, and the private sector;
  • engage with civil society, the private sector, and academic representatives to determine what data they need to generate social and economic value;
  • provide training programs, tools, and guidelines designed to ensure government employees are capable of using open data effectively in policy development processes;
  • encourage non-governmental organisations 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;
  • share technical expertise and experience with other governments and international organisations around the world, so that everyone can reap the benefits of open data; and
  • empower a future generation of data innovators inside and outside of government by supporting an environment optimised for increasing open data literacy and encouraging developers, civil society organisations, academics, media representatives, government employees, and other open data users, to unlock the value of open data.

Crossposted from http://opendatacharter.net/charter/.

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