PRINCIPLE 3 — Accessible and Usable

Authors: Stephen Gates | Reviewers: Edafe Onerhime, Mor Rubinstein
Open data is data that anyone can access, use, and share. This principle highlights the importance of open data to be discoverable, accessible, and made available without technical or administrative barriers. In particular, open data should be discoverable on a central portal, provided free of charge, and accessible anonymously. Open data must be provided in machine-readable, open formats, and with an open license. Moreover, creating awareness of open data, improving data literacy, and providing access to tools and resources will enable people to create positive change through the use of open data.

Case study

The Australian Government, an Open Data Charter adopter, has published open data on a central portal, and has harvested metadata from national and sub-national levels, including state, territory and local government portals, enabling the discovery of open data from across the country. The government has developed an open data policy that requires open data to be published with an open licence, in multiple machine-readable formats, free of charge, following standards, which is updated automatically. It has also published statistics on the number of datasets and resources available, and whether the data is machine-readable or accessible via an Application Program Interface (API).

Overview of Principle 3 – Accessible and Usable

Target audience (s)
Governments (Open Data Publishers)
What is currently measured
Commitments P3.a, P3.b, P3.c, and P3.d can be measured, in some cases automatically.
Elements of Principle 3 that are assessed by leading open data measurement tools are catalogued in Appendix I - Principle 3 Indicator Table and reviewed below.
Commitment P3.a, “Publish data on a central portal, so that open data is easily discoverable and accessible in one place”, is measured by ODB, GODI, ODIN, and OURdata. Some indicators evaluate the existence of a central data portal, whilst others assess whether data is stored on a dataportal or a ministerial website, or whether the data is “available as a whole” (meaning in bulk). Findability is assessed independently, by checking the existence of descriptive metadata that could enhance data discoverability, or through the subjective “ease of finding data”.
Commitment P3.b, “Release data in open formats to ensure that the data is available to the widest range of users to find, access, and use. In many cases, this will include providing data in multiple, standardized formats, so that it can be processed by computers and used by people”, is measured by ODB, GODI, ODIN, and OURdata. Indicators assess the use of one or more “open formats” (e.g. CSV, XML, RDF, JSON). Usability “by the widest range of users” is partially measured due to the existence of several standardised open data formats.
Commitment P3.c, “Release data free of charge, under an open and unrestrictive license”, is measured by ODB, GODI, ODIN, OURdata, and EODMA. Indicators rely on a manual assessment by inspecting copyright or licensing statements, a policy statement, or website terms and conditions.
Commitment P3.d, “Release data without mandatory registration, allowing users to choose to download data without being required to identify themselves”, is measured by ODB, GODI, ODIN, and OURdata. Indicators assess the terms and conditions for downloading data. For example, data must be downloadable without mandatory registration.
Commitment P3.e, “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, build capacity for effective use of open data, and ensure citizen, community, and civil society and private sector representatives have the tools and resources they need to effectively understand how public resources are used”, is measured by ODB and OURdata. The commitment is very broad and overlaps with other Charter commitments. Indicators assess the availability of support, training courses, and the organization of events that encourage the use of open data.