Some of you may have heard of the term ‘open data’ being used in our burgeoning, tech-savvy society. And with data becoming increasingly important, so does the publishing of ‘open data’.


But what is open data?


Open data is data that has been made available for anybody to freely view, use, or share – and is more common than you might think.

One of the most obvious examples of open data publications would be from the Government through the website As I expect you know, the government are funded by tax-payers money, so this means the government have a responsibility to publish any data findings for the public to access. Seems fair, right?

Another similar example, but on a smaller scale would be the publications on our Exeter Data Mill. Fundamentally, these both offer publications of data, open to anyone to access and redistribute.

This would also be a good time to mention public data. Public data differs to open data in the sense that with open data you can re-use, analyse, and compare it with simplicity. Public data is literally just data that is owned by the public. In the government data publishing context, the data is owned by the public because the public fund it.


So, why publish open data?


There are tonnes of advantages of publishing open data. Open data can encourage people to make changes, and better decisions, or it can also be used to inform people, and help give a better understanding of things, to name a few. It is especially important for governments to have a way of communicating data with the public, which they do currently through the website, and through other city data mills such as ‘Data Mill North’, ‘Bath Hacked’, and ‘The Plymouth Data Place’. This is because it can influence citizens’ everyday lives and give an oversight of expenditure of tax-payer money.

For those of you who are more familiar with the technical jargon, open data may be thought about in a similar context to ‘open source’. Those of you not so familiar, ‘open source’ is essentially any idea which has been made available, or ‘open’, for anyone to redistribute, or modify; which is sort of like open data. The main difference here being that ‘open source’ can refer to any kind of idea, project, product, or initiative, where as ‘open data’ is specific information such as names, locations, and ages.

Another term that may be worth knowing is ‘shared data’, which is similar in the sense that others can use it. However, there are more restrictions, and not just anyone can use it. Shared data is shared only with named people, organisations, or specific groups, provided under terms and conditions, or a license.

Proprietary data is also sort of the same as ‘shared data’, because it has an owner (in this case a third-party vendor). People may or may not be able to access said data depending on the restrictions placed.


Go to and take a look through some of the open data that has been uploaded, to see things like how your money is being spent, and then share what you’ve found on Twitter using the hashtag #ExeterDataMill