Stuff explained: What is open data and why should you care about it?

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Open data is, basically,  the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. A piece of data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web talks about open data in this TED talk:

 

“Opening up data is fundamentally about more efficient use of resources and improving service delivery for citizens.  The effects of that are far reaching: innovation, transparency, accountability, better governance and economic growth.”

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The idea would be: if you make your datasets open to the public, more researchers would have the opportunity to play with it and see what gives; potentially expanding knowledge. This can be particularly helpful for those operating on limited resources of their own: a lot of researchers using open data come from the global South/open data is being very successfully used by research informing policymakers in developed countries; see, for example, Ghana’s open data initiative or the Open Data Research network.

Now, Sir Berners-Lee makes another interesting distinction:

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Stuff Explained Sunday: Mean, Median and Mode

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Since I’ve been writing about statistics quite a bit (here and here), and since I happened to come across a really cute illustration on a blog in (I think?) Bosnian (yay for Google translate!), this week’s Stuff Explained Sunday will be about mean, median and mode.

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So, we can see in this illustration how much each of these guys (individuals in the population) earned last month.

Now, we could say that the arithmetical average wage in the population is $5,700; with the variant “look, the average worker at my company earned $5,700 last month, can the union get off my back already??”. Which is arithmetically correct.

Except this gives us a very skewed view of how most individual guys in the picture are actually for themselves: only 4 people in the group are earning $5,700 or more, 20 are earning less, and a lot of those 20 quite a lot less.

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This happens because the distribution is skewed.

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Stuff Explained Sunday: What Child Marriage Means for Girls

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Since yesterday we discussed a Plan International report on adolescent girls’ perceptions of their own empowerment in relation to education, marriage, pregnancy and everyday interractions, this Sunday I am featuring an infographic by Girls Not Brides, on how child marriage contributes to gender inequality:
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To find out more about how you can support Girls Not Brides and take action, follow this link.