According to the Open Definition:

“Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).”

Open Data is hence, any data that is open, according to this definition. So, then this leads me to the question: What is Open Knowledge, and how is it different from Open Data?

  • this question would probably better be served on open data se
    – albert
    Jul 12, 2015 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


According to the Open Knowledge Foundation...

Open Knowledge is what open data becomes when it’s useful, doable, and used.

So then what does this mean? The foundation goes on to list three key points about “openness”

Open data are the building blocks of open knowledge. Open knowledge is what open data becomes when it’s useful, usable and used.

  • Availability and Access: the data must be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading over the internet. The data must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.
  • Reuse and redistribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit reuse and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets. The data must be machine-readable.
  • Universal Participation: everyone must be able to use, reuse and redistribute — there should be no discrimination against fields of endeavour or against persons or groups. For example, ‘non-commercial’ restrictions that would prevent ‘commercial’ use, or restrictions of use for certain purposes (e.g. only in education), are not allowed.

Generally, we refer to data as being of a certain situation, and knowledge when many agencies and groups of the public recognize and understand this data. The information is useful, available, and open to the public for their private or commercial use.

Take a United Nations Human Development Report as an example:

  • It’s easily available
    The report is literally a click away from being in your hands. There’s no access restrictions put into place by the UN Development Programme. The PDF document is easy to read, access and index.
  • You can share and redistribute these reports
    According to the Terms Of Use, the content is licensed under the Creative Commons International Organizations License. It says that you’re allowed to share the information, and adapt, or build upon it for any purpose.
  • It’s available for any use
    The license goes on to say that you can use the data, even commercially. I’ve used these reports many times, particularly in my school research projects in a multitude of subjects, such as English, Geography and the like. The UN Development Programme doesn’t restrict or discriminate under anyone, and everyone can freely use it.

These development reports are a perfect example of Open Knowledge.

A few examples of things that aren’t Open Knowledge:

  • The crumpled up note that you secretly passed with your girlfriend at school earlier today.
  • That super secret document you gave to your boss about your company’s newest, fanciest phone that will beat Apple's iPhone and Samsung's whatever phone they have.
  • The game article you sent to the newspaper the other day, only allowed for use for educational purposes.
  • The prescription numbers of your recently acquired glasses
  • this example is poor because the data is being distributed via proprietary formats (.pdf, .xls) and thus does not comply with open format data opendefinition.org/ofd
    – albert
    Jul 12, 2015 at 17:19
  • @albert Actually that's not the case - An Open Data Format is a format with, “a freely available published specification which places no restrictions, monetary or otherwise, upon its use”. and An Open Format is a format that, “can be processed with at least one free/libre/open-source software tool”.* I can open both in Python for example, which is open source. There's no restrictions.
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 13, 2015 at 3:15
  • @albert In that case also, what formats would I be able to use? Could you list some, such as text formats, image formats...
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 13, 2015 at 3:16
  • my bad, i meant its not an ideal format for open data. typically pdfs aren't machine-readable, as well as horrible to parse/scrape. you can manipulate it in python, but you are eons ahead of the learning curve here. average citizen is looking for software (Acrobat Reader, MS Excel, etc.) to open/consume/edit. in this case, instead of .pdf or .xls, .csv or .ods are preferred. even html if its done properly.
    – albert
    Jul 13, 2015 at 4:13
  • 1
    i'll give you that...its the same principle as html....i will say that 99.99999999999% of pdfs that i have encountered will not scrape correctly.
    – albert
    Jul 13, 2015 at 4:15

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