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Open Source and Open Data

  • Difficulty Level : Basic
  • Last Updated : 14 Jul, 2021

The proliferation of the internet, smart devices, and increasing applications have driven the digital transformation that leads to the rapid growth of data. Over 2.5 quintillion of data generated every day. Around the world, there are 44 zettabytes of data generated in the year 2020 which is likely to be expected 144 zettabytes by the year 2025. The primary sources of contribution in the extension of data are mainly social media data, machine data, and transactional data. But what actually data is? Data refers to the known facts and figures. It can be text or numbers, or it can be in the form of bytes that we can store in memory of a computer that gives a piece of information after processing which later is used for decision making and analysis. Data has become not only unlocking the door of innovation and productivity but also gave birth to ‘Open Source’ and ‘Open Data’. The common between the two is the word ‘Open’ which means freely accessible from the internet. Let get into the depth of these terms:

Open- Source

The term Open Source is used for free software that anyone can view, alter and redistribute, as its source code is also available along with the software. This software is freely accessible by anyone without paying any cost and mostly comes with all the functionalities. The source code is the actual program written in a specific programming language, through which programmers can modify it to improve the software by adding new features. The open-source software is based on a decentralized and collaborative way to create software with collective ownership or community production. 

The Open Source Initiative (OSI) was formed in 1998 by Richard Stallman to provide rules and guidelines along with the licensing information for the usage, distribution, support, ethical issues, and interaction with this kind of software. Some of the criteria of distribution of Open software are:

  • Source Code: The open-source software must come with the source code along with the right to modify and distribute. But some of the software may not come with source code that can be accessed by paying a minimal reproduction cost.
  • Free Distribution: There should not be any restrictions on the use and distribution of the software.
  • Derived Work: There should be acceptance of the distribution of the software with modification and derived works as same as the original software.
  • No Discrimination: There should not be discrimination against any person or group with the use of the software.
  • No restrictions to use other software: There should not be any restrictions to use other software that also comes with the distributed software.

OSS usually comes with a distribution license that defines how developers can use, modify and share the software. Some of the licenses are:

  • GNU GPL
  • Apache License
  • MIT License
  • BSD License

Some of the examples of Open-Source software: Linux operating system, Android by Google, Open Office, GIMP, VLC Media Player, Blender, Moodle, Python, PHP, Audacity, Google Chrome web browser, etc. 



Importance of Open Source: As we know that Open-Source is a collaborative work where programmers all over the world shared their knowledge to redesign and add new improved features that benefit the entire community and undenied business profits. Unlike Proprietary software which is not allowed to alter and redistribute because of the non-availability of the source code, open source comes with the source code. When we say Open Source is free, it doesn’t mean without cost rather means :

  • Freedom to use
  • Freedom to study and alter the software
  • Freedom to share its copy
  • Freedom to use and distribute the derivative or modified version of the software

Pros of open source:

  1. Encourages Innovation: We cannot decline the innovative product created by the contribution of well expertise programmers from all over the world. A great number of developers are trying to add new functionalities that were not present in the original software with the aim to solve multiple business problems. The most recent start-ups are majorly used open -datasets that help Entrepreneurs to launch new innovative products.
  2. Cost-Effective: The open source software and data are meant for anyone to freely download and use that allows anyone to create a unique IT infrastructure according to needs.
  3. Quick response to fix bugs: With the wider developer community around the world is constantly working on finding and fixing bugs, which results in assistance with quick bug removal from software and data.
  4. Flexible: Programmer/developer can examine how the open-source code works and can modify the code according to their requirements. 
  5. Stability: As we know that open source is publicly distributed so the user depends upon them for their long-term projects because they know that the tool cannot disappear or fall into disrepair even if their original creator stops working on them.
  6. Community: Open source generally inspires a community of people(user and developer) that continuously modifies, test, promote, and improves the source code.
  7. Transparency: Open source allows the user or developer to check or track the data without relying on the vendor.

Cons of open source:

  1. Lack of product support: No assurance of support when you dig into some problem and need some support to rectify.
  2. Risk of malicious activity: Not all developers have the intention to help and improve the software. Some use the privilege of open source code to add malicious viruses, bugs, trojans to steal an identity.
  3. User-unfriendly: Not all open source software or data are user-friendly, despite full-fledged functionalities, sometimes this software comes with a not very interactive interface which is difficult for non-technical users.

Open Data

Open data consists of information that anyone can access, use and share without any restrictions. Although open data can be freely accessible, some privacy protections such as copyright or patents restrict the use.  Open data is available from the external sources of any organization throughout the world. It can be generated by smartphones and computers through which data from web pages, emails, chatting conversations, music streaming, videogames are collected and transmitted to the global network of computers using OSS. This data can be used for forecasting, unveiling buying patterns of demographic groups, predictive analysis, and finding new opportunities for innovation, etc. In a precise way, open data must have the following features:

  • The data must be accessible in a convenient and changeable format.
  • The data must be available by downloading over the internet at no cost.
  • The data must be re-usable and redistributable under certain terms and conditions.

Uses of Open data: Open Data allows data to be interoperable as many organizations and researchers are sharing and working together on different datasets, which not only increases communication but also increases possibilities for further research. Open Data helps individuals, businesses, or the government to bring environmental, economic, and social benefits. Some of the uses of Open-Data are:

  • It creates opportunities to connect businesses with customers.
  • It provides transparency between government and citizens about the policies and services.
  • It helps in early warning of natural disasters and can alert concerned people.

Kinds of Open data: There are different kinds of open-data that are used in multiple fields and have tremendous uses and applications:

  • Science and technology:  The data that is created and consumed by scientific research, numerical or qualitative values derived from scientific experiments, training data in machine learning are some sources of data along with these sources data created from zoology to Artificial Intelligence are also part of this field.
  • Finance: The data produced by the government sector for both expenditure and revenue along with data on the financial market such as stocks, shares, bonds, etc. are part of finance data.
  • Weather and Environment: The data produced by weather prediction, humidity, pressure, pollutants in the air, the quality level of air, rivers, seas are the sources of data.

Apart from the different categories of data, it can be available in different formats, such as,

  • Structured data: This kind of data is stored in fixed fields using some database management software. These are in the form of databases such as Excel tables, SQL databases, etc. For example, name, address, credit card number, bank account number, pin code number, mobile number, etc.
  • Unstructured data: This kind of data doesn’t fit in any table or format. For example,  audio, video, images, social media posts, comments, etc.

Difference between Open Source and Open Data

Open Source 

Open Data

It deals with applications.It deals with data.
It produces data using compiled source code.It provides raw materials to create applications.
It is created by developer communities all over the world.It is produced by any individual, business, or government.
It is not always available free of cost, free denotes freedom to use, share, modify, and redistribution of source code., It is always available free of cost without any restrictions. 
The contributors are the programming experts who have some computer programming languages.It can be generated by anyone with the click of a button on a computer or smartphone.

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