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Standards for open data

When releasing open data it is important to use a standard to ensure your data is comparable and interoperable.

Open data and standards

The Open Data Institute (ODI) defines standards as documented, reusable agreements that solve a specific set of problems or meet clearly defined needs. They describe the language, concepts, rules, guidance, or results that have been agreed. They are used when it’s important to be consistent, be able to repeat processes, make comparisons, or reach a shared understanding.

Open Standards for Data - ODI

There are standards, open standards, data standards, and open data standards. On this page, we are talking specifically about data standards and open data standards that improve your open data. It is also important to ensure your infrastructure (API; metadata registers) and governance also follow a standard.

Standards help agencies:

  • agree on common models or a common language
  • share information consistently
  • make combining information simpler and more streamlined
  • support positive social change
  • implement policy or legislation
  • promote common understanding and shared vision.

Your technical staff may refer to specific data standards as schemas. A data standard is an agreed upon schema. 

What data standards are there?

There are many. Each standard is designed for a specific purpose. Standards are often picked up by other teams, data services, or agencies for wider use. 

If you are building a data service that shares data with a third party, or integrates with another digital service, you must ask them about their data schemas and standards. 

In Aotearoa NZ, there are also mandated data standards. The Government Chief Data Steward mandates the use of these standards to help us integrate data across government agencies. These usually describe the name of a variable and how to collect it. For example, how do you record an address?

Mandated Data Standards

When exploring data standards to improve your open data, you could ask about the schemas and standards that your users or customers need. But you often have many users with different needs, and those are just the ones you know about.

Rather than endlessly debate and negotiate, it is easier to use a data standard specifically designed for open data.

So, what are these data standards and where can you find them? 

Standards for discoverability and findability

To begin, you will want to ensure that the people who need to use your open data can find your open data. For that, you need to use descriptive metadata standards. These describe the datasets, data assets, collections, or series in a way that can be used by search engines, registers, and catalogues. 

Examples include:

  • The Dublin Core (DCMI)
  • DCAT-2 (Data Catalog Vocabulary)
  • ISO 19115 (Geospatial metadata standard).

Standards for interoperability and reuse

After finding your data, you will need to use standards that improve the interoperability and reuse of your data. For example, government agencies must use the mandated data standards to ensure cross agency interoperability and reuse. 

Examples of these standards include:

  • Ariā – a registry of classification standards and statistical standards used in official statistics and government agencies in Aotearoa NZ.
  • METeOR 
  • Schema.org
  • DDI
  • Standards.govt.nz

How do you apply a standard?

The additional resources section contains international guidance on the benefit and application of standards. Your analysts, data scientists, and IT staff can help you to apply a standard, but it is up to you to decide which standard to use.

Who can help you?

If you need help applying standards to your open data, there are many experts in the system. The GCDS and Stats NZ both offer help with the implementation of mandated standards. DIA and Stats NZ can help with standards in the transfer and sharing protocols or formats of open data.

Mandated data standards group at Stats NZ

Government data and digital standards community of practice 

Additional resources

Contact us

If you’d like more information, have a question, or want to provide feedback, please email datalead@stats.govt.nz.

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