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BUSN - Open Data

This guide will help you discover sources of open data with resources categorized geographically and thematically.

What is Open Data?

Source: YouTube -

What is open data?

Open data is freely available, machine-readable, structured data that can  be used with no restrictions.  Many governments  and institutions around the world are providing data sets to the public in order to promote innovation of ideas and information.  The Government of Canada established an Open Data Charter in 2013.  See the latest National Action Plan.

What is the difference between data and statistics?

  • Data is the raw information (think ingredients)
  • Data: Answers “why” or “how” questions

  • Statistics are data interpreted (think meal)
  • Statistics: Answer “how much” or “how many “questions.

“Statistics is the science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling, and communicating uncertainty; and it thereby provides the navigation essential for controlling the course of scientific and societal advances” (Davidian, M. and Louis, T. A., 10.1126/science.1218685). 

Why open data? (implications for research)

Research implications – open data allows anyone to look at the data that was previously collected in order to create new findings.  This save money and time by avoiding an expensive data collection cycle and allows for more breakthroughs.

Society implications – new minds can look at the data and find new ways to use it.  Look at these examples of how some groups used on set of data:

Strategies for finding open data

Government searches – By using the advanced Google features, you can quickly narrow your results to government publications.  This search shows you how to find open data and can be applied to any country, once you have the domain name:

City data (most cities have open data repositories- using our google search, you can re-create it) Try the government search, but this time substitute a city domain name:

Google File type search: While this is not a foolproof method of finding raw open data, it is a useful strategy when you are being inundated with results.  You can narrow to Excel files, as these are often how the information is delivered.  For added relevance and authority, you can combine that with your government or city search:

Statistic Mining:  When you find statistical information, there should be a source identified.  This may lead you in the direction of the raw data.  In the case below, you can go to the CRTC website to see if they provide data.  Not all organizations provide the data though, but sometimes they will in response to a request.