Open data as a concept states that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish without restrictions or mechanisms of control. The aims include improving public services, sparking economic innovation, increasing efficiency in existing processes, and changing the methods of democratic representation.
Open data has seen a massive upsurge in interest from political institutions in recent years. In the UK, the government has funded the Open Data Institute via the Technology Strategy Board, and opened a civil society consultancy through the Open Data User Group.
For a more inspirational explanation of where the philosophy of open data comes from, why it’s important and what it means for modern societies, it is well worth watching this video of Rufus Pollock from the Open Knowledge Foundation.