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
- 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