When the Internet is used to openly share public information it helps improve government transparency and accountability, and delivers on its potential for positive impact in the world.

Data is “open” when it can be freely used, modified and shared by anyone for any purpose. Ideally, public data on budgets, elections, transportation, health care and more, can be explored online by all. Unfortunately, government commitments to open data appear to be stalling worldwide.

Notable exceptions include Canada, Israel, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico and the United Kingdom, who have made steady progress since formally adopting an Open Data Charter.

How data is published matters enormously to whether it is genuinely useful. To be of maximal use and public benefit, data must be online and free, available in bulk in machine readable format (for data analysis) and issued under an open license (enabling cross-sector research and more).

The Open Data Barometer of the World Wide Web Foundation tracks progress on open data around the world. Of the 1,725 data sets they reviewed from 115 countries, only 7% of data sets were “open” in 2016.

How public data sets were shared in 115 countries from 2012 to 2016


Data source: Open Data Barometer (4th edition), World Wide Web Foundation, 2017