What is an Open Data Portal?

What is an Open Data Portal?

An open data portal is any online platform that supports users in accessing collections of open data. Typical open data portals present the data of the organization which hosts the portal.
For the State of Alaska, the portal primarily presents data of the State, but will also bring useful sets from federal, local, and other sources into one place making it easier for Alaskans to find necessary and useful information.
Government organizations sometimes host open data portals as a way of meeting their freedom of information legal requirements. Alaska's Open Data Portal additionally helps support the state initiative called the Pandemic Preparedness Plan which is designed to place the State of Alaska in a position to ensure worker safety and health and to maintain maximum continuity of government operations during the COVID and future pandemics.
Another common use case is open data portals for sharing data in some field of research for the benefit of other researchers.

Open Government Data

One of the most important forms of open data is open government data (OGD), which is a form of open data created by government institutions.
Open government data's importance comes from it being a part of citizens' everyday lives, down to the most routine/mundane tasks that are seemingly far removed from government.

But what is 'Open Data'?

Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone. Open data should be completely shareable. Open data will almost always exclude restricted data such as personal information or "PII". This is particularly true for data that can be found on Alaska's open data portal. There are three additional key rules that apply to open data.
  • Availability and Access: the data must be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading over the internet. The data must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.
  • Re-use and Redistribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets.
  • Universal Participation: everyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute - there should be no discrimination against functional areas or against persons or groups. For example, ‘non-commercial’ restrictions that would prevent ‘commercial’ use, or restrictions of use for certain purposes (e.g. only in education), are not allowed if we are going to continue to consider the data 'open'.

Why be so clear about these rules? 

If you’re wondering why it is so important to be clear about what open means and why this definition is used, there’s a simple answer: interoperability.
Interoperability is the ability of diverse systems and organizations to work together (inter-operate). Specifically, regarding open data, it is the ability to interoperate - or intermix - different datasets.
Interoperability is important because it allows for different components to work together. This ability to ‘plug together’ components, or datasets, is essential to building large, complex systems. Without interoperability, this becomes nearly impossible.
We face a similar situation concerning data. The whole basis for having access to data for one's benefit is that one or more pieces of “open” information can be freely intermixed with other “open” material. This interoperability is absolutely key to realizing the main practical benefits of “openness”: the exponentially increased ability to combine different datasets and thereby gain better insights, a more thorough understanding of information, or identify more efficient or effective processes.
Providing a clear definition of openness ensures that when you get two open datasets from two different sources, you will be able to combine them.