Thank you from the team at Australia’s Regional Open Data Census.
Without people like you, the open data movement would not be where it is today. By contributing to the census, you’re helping encourage Australia’s state and territory governments publish open data to a high standard. This makes it easier for innovators, researchers and the community to create value through the use of open data.
The Census is a survey built around four axes:
- Place – e.g. an Australian state or territory.
- Dataset – e.g. budget, expenditure, contracts, etc.
- Time – a calendar year.
- Question – a specific question we ask about each dataset (e.g. “does it exist”, “is it machine readable”).
For each Place + Dataset + Time combination we ask for answers to the set of Questions.
The set of answers to the Questions for given Place + Dataset + Time combination is called a Submission.
When a Submission has been reviewed and deemed accurate it becomes an Entry in the Census.
- select the dataset and place combination they wish to assess (the time defaults to the current year).
- login using their Google or Facebook account.
- answer the questions to make a new or revised submission.
Editors then review the submission and approve, ask for clarification, or reject it.
Before you start answering questions
- We’re looking for official government data.
- Evidence to support your answers.
- Answer for the current situation (i.e. not what was or will be).
- The questions you're asked, vary based on your answers. (Learn how).
Each question is answered with a Yes, No or Unsure. Most of the time a “Yes” or “No” answer should be easy to determine. Some answers may take some effort to find. If you can’t interpret the information provided by the publisher, you can ask for help.
- Does the data exist?
- Is the data in digital form?
- Is the data publicly available?
- Is the data available for free?
- Is the data available online?
- Is the data machine-readable?
- Is it available in bulk?
- Is the data openly licensed?
- Is the data provided on a timely and up to date basis?
1. Does the data exist?
If you've found the data, it exists, so answer “yes”.
If you answer “no”, you wont be asked anymore questions. It is very important that you're certain the data does not exist. Please indicate in the Comments section where you have looked for the data.
How do you know if the data exists?
- Most governmental data can be found on government data portals (e.g. data.victoria.gov.au, data.nsw.gov.au). Use DataPortals.org to find a portal in your area.
- If a state or territory doesn’t have a data portal, they may publish the data on their own departmental web sites or to the national data portal (data.gov.au).
- If you can’t find the data on a website, email or call the relevant department and ask them about the dataset and whether it’s online.
- Still can’t find the data or you didn’t get an answer from the government? Try one last time by using your favourite search engine.
2. Is the data in digital form?
Answer ‘yes’ if the data exists in any digital format, even if it can’t be accessed on the Internet. Data can be digital, but not accessible online.
Answer “no” if the data is not on the Internet, stored on computers, available on a DVD, CD, USB, Hard Disk or other electronic media.
How do you know if the data is in digital format?
- If the data exists, but only on paper, it’s not digital.
- If you found the data on the Internet, it’s definitely digital, even if it’s just scanned versions of paper documents.
- Some data might be in digital format on a private government network, but not available publicly on the Internet. If you are aware that the data is digital somewhere (for instance, if a government official tells you so), then answer “yes” and add a note about how you acquired that information and any relevant contact details or links.
3. Is the data publicly available?
Answer “yes” if the data is made available to the public in any format without restrictions.
If you answer “no”, you’ll notice some questions are hidden.
How do you know if the data is publicly available?
- If you need a password or some other form of permissions to access the data it’s not publicly available.
- If the data is only available in paper form without any restrictions on the number of copies you can make, it’s publicly available. If there are limits on photocopying, it’s not considered publicly available.
- If you need to make a right to information request to access the data, it is not publicly available.
- If the data is only available to government officials and not citizens, it is not publicly available.
4. Is the data available for free?
Answer “yes” if the data is available without any cost.
Answer “no” if there is any cost involved in accessing the data. You’ll notice that the openly licensed question is hidden because being available at no cost is a key requirement of the Open Definition and open licensing.
5. Is the data available online?
Answer “yes” if the data is available on the Internet. You will be asked to provide the url that links to the data.
Answer “no” if the data is not available anywhere on the Internet.
How do you know if the data is available online?
- If the data is publicly available (see above) and can be freely accessed on the Internet, it is available online.
- If the data is available online, provide a link to it or, if that’s not possible, a link to the home page of the site.
6. Is the data machine-readable?
Choose “yes” if the data is in a format that can be easily processed by a computer.
Choose “no” if the file format can not be easily processed by a computer.
How do you know if the data is in a machine readable format?
The easiest way to answer this question is to look at the dataset’s file type.
- As a rule of thumb the following file types are machine readable: .XLS .CSV .JSON .XML .KML
- The following formats are NOT machine readable: .HTML .PDF .DOC .GIF .JPEG .PPT
- If your dataset is a different file type and you don’t know if it’s machine readable or not, ask for help.
7. Is it available in bulk?
Choose “yes” if the entire dataset can be downloaded at once.
Choose “no” if you can not access the database in its entirety.
How do you know if the data is available in bulk?
- If you aren’t able to download a single file that contains the entirety of the dataset you are looking for, it is not available in bulk.
- Often times governments will provide access to their data through an online interface. If access is restricted to querying a web form and retrieving a only a subset of results at a time from a very large database, the data is considered to not be available in bulk.
8. Is the data openly licensed?
Choose “yes” if the data is licensed in a way that conforms to the Open Definition or is in the public domain.
Choose “no” if the data is protected under a license that does not conform to the Open Definition.
How can you find the licensing information?
- Usually, a license or Terms & Conditions can be found at the bottom of the website (in the footer) or under the site’s “About” section.
- If the site has a search function or a sitemap, those are good places to look as well.
- If there is no visible license or the license is simply under the government's name (e.g. “Copyright The State of Queensland”) and there are no terms and conditions or any other information on the site, the data is not open and you should answer “no”.
How do you know if the data is openly licensed?
- In order for data to be openly licensed, it needs to be free to use, reuse, and free to redistribute. The Open Definition website lists the licenses that are certified open.
- Data licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) or Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (CC BY SA ) licences are openly licensed.
- If the non-commercial or no-derivatives CC licenses (the ones with “NC” or “ND” in their names) are used, then the data is NOT considered openly licensed according to the Open Definition.
- Sometimes governments do not make use of Creative Commons licensing, but the terms and conditions do allow use, re-use and distribution. In that case ask for help on how to answer this question.
9. Is the data provided on a timely and up to date basis?
Choose “yes” if the data is relevant and complete for the year or time period that it claims to represent.
Choose “no” if the data is outdated or otherwise not representative of the stated or a reasonable time period.
How do you know if the data is timely and up to date?
- Check the date-stamp on the data (see below if that’s not obvious). It’s 2015, if the data doesn’t seem relevant for the current year, mark a “no”.
- It’s important to remember that not all datasets need to be updated with the same frequency. Transportation data can be updated on a daily basis while elections might not change for three years. Do your best to determine what is reasonable for a given dataset.
- Does the data align with how government works in your area? If budgets are determined yearly, there should be yearly data, if they’re determined every two years, then a two year period for the data would be considered timely and up to date.
Further Details and Comments
Please add detail to expand on and support your answers. Information on data availability is especially useful, such as:
- Is the data partially available?
- Are there plans to make it available in the future?
- Is the data available from an unofficial source?
- Is the data available by combining multiple datasets? If so add their names and URLs.
- If you’ve determined that a particular dataset does not exist, let us know where you did look and what factors led you to believe that it doesn’t.
- If the dataset is available in digital form but not available online, let us know what format the data is available in and provide contact information or further instructions on how one could get a hold of the data.
- If the dataset is not publicly available, let us know how one could get a hold of the data, if at all. If the data is only available through a right to information request, give an indication of what is involved in making that request.
- If you are unsure whether or not a file type is machine readable or not, mark ‘no’ as an answer and explain your rationale in the comment section.
- If the dataset is not available in bulk, describe what is available and how to access it, including links.
- Let us know why you think the data is either made available in a timely manner or not. Different places have different legislative and governmental spending cycles so it’s important for us to understand the local context as much as possible before making a judgement.
By default, submissions to the census are credited to the submitter. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, please indicate so by checking the box.
After you press Submit, our Editors will review your submission before it is posted in the census. You can return to your submission by going to the Changes page. By clicking through to your submission you’ll go to a page where it’s possible to have a conversation with Editors and others using commenting facility at the bottom of the page
Still not sure?
If you’d like to practice making submissions to the census, try it out at, https://demo.census.okfn.org.
Still not sure? Ask a question on the forum.