Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is it called a regional census?
  2. What places are assessed?
  3. Is there a census for Australia's local governments or nationally?
  4. What data is assessed?
  5. What questions are asked about the data?
  6. Who can submit an assessment?
  7. When do submissions close?
  8. Can I download the census data?
  9. Are there other open data quality initiatives?
  10. What improvements are planned?

1. Why is it called a Regional census?

The census is called a Regional census to be consistent with the name used in other Open Knowledge censuses.

2. What places are assessed?

All Australian states and territories can join the census.

3. Is there a census for Australia's local governments or nationally?

Yes. Visit Australia's Local Open Data Census and Australia's Global Open Data Index entry.

4. What data is assessed?

We assess the following datasets.

Dataset Details
Government Budget

The state/territory government budget at a high level (e.g. future planned spending by sector, by department, released annually).

Government Spending

Records of actual (past) state/territory government spending at a detailed transactional level; at the level of month to month government expenditure on specific items (this usually means individual records of spending amounts under $1m or even under $100k). (Data about contracts awarded is not considered sufficient to represent government spending.)

Procurement Contracts

Contract information on state/territory government procurement contracts including contract id, title, name and address of the supplier, description of the goods and services procured, contract status, start and end dates, total value, etc.


This data category requires all state/territory government laws and statutes to be available online. (It is not a requirement that information on legislative behaviour i.e. voting records is available.)

Election Results

Results by electorate for all major state/territory electoral contests including number of registered and invalid votes by polling station and electoral boundaries.

Government Facilities

Location information about state/territory government facilities such as schools, hospitals, police stations, etc. opening times and services available.

Transport Timetables

Timetables of state/territory government operated (or commissioned) public transport services (e.g. buses, rail, trams, ferries). Geographic location of stops and fare structures is desirable but not mandatory.

Realtime Transit

Real-time information about state/territory government operated (or commissioned) public transport services. I.e. The real-time location of actual services (individual buses, trains, trams and ferries) as they travel prescribed routes.

Crime Statistics

Data on crime, preferably at a reasonably disaggregated level (best would be exact date, location and crime type but crimes per day, per street or postcode would be acceptable).

Traffic Accidents

Statistics on road traffic accidents including time, location, accident classification.

Healthcare Performance

Statistics generated from administrative data that could be used to indicate performance of specific healthcare services, or the healthcare system as a whole (e.g. emergency care, patients treated, elective surgery, quality, safety, patient experience, dental care, mental health).

5. What questions are asked about the data?

Each dataset in each place is evaluated using nine questions. The following table describes the nine questions in further detail along with their weights. There are additional questions that help provide extra information about the data (e.g. its location, format, etc.)

Question Details Weighting
Openly licensed?

The licence must comply with the Open Definition which allows data to be freely used, reused and redistributed. The Open Definition provides a list of conformant licences. If the data uses one of these licences, it is openly licensed.

Licences are commonly found in:

  • the web page footer
  • a link to Terms & Conditions
  • the About section

Some licences may allow re-use and redistribution but have not been assessed as conformant with the Open Definition. In this case, seek feedback on the Open Data Index discussion forum

Is the data machine readable?

All files are digital, but not all can be processed or parsed easily by a computer. In order to answer this question, you would need to look at the file type of the dataset. As a rule of thumb the following file types are machine readable:

  • XLS
  • CSV
  • JSON
  • XML

The following formats are NOT machine readable:

  • HTML
  • PDF
  • DOC
  • JIF
  • JPEG
  • PPT

If you have a different file type and you don’t know if it’s machine readable or not, ask in the Open Data Census forum

Is the data available for free?

The data is free if you don’t have to pay for it.

Available in bulk?

Data is available in bulk if the whole dataset can be downloaded easily. It is considered non-bulk if the citizens are limited to getting parts of the dataset through an online interface.

For example, if restricted to querying a web form and retrieving a few results at a time from a very large database.

Is the data provided on a timely and up to date basis?

Is the data current for the census year? You can determine or estimate when the data was last updated and its update frequency by reviewing:

  • the metadata displayed for the data in an open data portal or web page
  • the dataset title or filename e.g. Budget 2013-14 or Election_4July2015.csv
  • metadata tags embedded in the web page that contains the data
  • date values within the data to find the most recent date value
  • the timestamp on the data file (although this may not be accurate)
  • Some data is not updated on a regular basis. e.g. Pollutant emissions may be updated daily - while postal codes may not change for many years.

You may need to use your judgement to determine if the data is timely and up to date. Document your rationale in the comments section.

If you cannot determine a date, answer, "NO" i.e. the data is not timely or up-to-date.

Does the data exist?

Data must come from an official resource either issued directly by the government or by a third party officially representing the government. Data offered by companies, citizen initiatives or any non-governmental organisation do not count for the Index.

If the government has given the right to publish the data to third parties, a submission with a link a to third party site is allowed. The third-party site must explicitly state that the data has been commissioned by the government. Check if the organization has an agreement with the government to be the official source and make a note in the comment section.

Is data in digital form?

Data can be in a digital format, but not accessible online. For example: A country budget can be stored on a spreadsheet or otherwise on a private government network, but not on the Internet. This means that the data is digital, but not publicly available. If you know that the data is digital somewhere inside the government (e.g. a government official tells you so), then you should answer “YES” to this question and note in the comment section how you discovered the data is in digital form.

Publicly available?

Can the data be accessed by the public without restrictions? Data is considered publicly available when:

  • It can be accessed online without the need for a password or permissions.
  • If the data is in paper form, can be accessed by the public, and there is no restrictions on the number of photocopies that can be made.

Data is NOT publicly available when:

  • It is only made available after making a request.
  • It was availiable because of FOIA.
  • It can only be accessed by government officials.
Is the data available online?

Data is online if it can be accessed via the Internet (e.g. a website or open data portal). If the data has been emailed to you but is not accessible via the Internet, it is not considered to be available online.


6. Who can submit an assessment?

Anyone can submit an assessment. All contributions, after the first, are reviewed by our expert editorial team before they are displayed on the site.

As you answer questions in the submission, the form adjusts based on your answers. Most answers should be "Yes" or "No" but if information is provided but you're not sure how to interpret it, answer "Unsure".

7. When do submissions close?

Submissions close at the end of each year on 31 December. The census restarts on 1 January. You can compare progress across years by selecting the year on the home page.

Any pending submissions that have not been reviewed when the year changes do not carry forward, so it is important that editors review all outstanding submissions before the end of the year. The change log is restarted each year. Change logs for previous years can be viewed using a URL in the form Change 2015 to the year you're interested in viewing.

8. Can I download the census data?

Sure. You can access the data as CSV or JSON. Here's a graph we made with the CSV data. Tell us how you're planning to use it.

9. Are there other open data quality initiatives?

Yes. Here are a few we follow:

  • Open Data Barometer - powered by the global open data census and research.
  • Open Data Monitor - deep insights into european open data deployments.
  • Tau - a metric to assess the timeliness of data in catalogues.
  • Open Data Certificates - show your data is easy to find, use and share. Here's our badge for the data behind the census (click it to view the full certificate).

10. What improvements are planned?

Known bugs

Bugs are reported as issues in GitHub. Follow our progress in fixing them or raise a new issue if you find one.

Improvement ideas

We'd love to hear your ideas. Here are some of ours:

  1. Link the Global, Regional and Local censuses together so you could click through each set of results.
  2. Add a map interface like the one used on the Global Open Data Index. That's why our email and twitter accounts use the word "index", rather than "census".