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Open data

The publication of open data promotes the transparent functioning of local governments and the state as a whole. Using open data to develop services saves time and money.

Open data is for everyone to use, reuse and share, and it can be used to launch commercial and non-profit ventures, conduct research and make data-driven decisions. Open data databases are available at
The Estonian Open Data Portal was established with the purpose of publishing and transmitting public information. The Estonian Open Data Portal serves as a centralised platform where open data reusers can access all open data generated in Estonia. To ensure that open data reusers have this opportunity, each institution must contribute to the publication of data. 

In general, if the law does not provide for a fee for obtaining data, open data can be obtained free of charge and without any access restrictions. The creators and publishers of open data are primarily public sector institutions, although they can also include companies, research institutions and other organisations that collect and generate data that may be of public interest. 

Characteristics of open data

Open access: What sets open data apart from other types of data is its open access, which allows for its free reuse. The conditions for the reuse of open data are governed by a licence. Ideally, everyone should have access to the data and be free to modify, combine and share the data, even for commercial purposes.

​Free availability: The availability of open data should not be restricted, but this does not mean that access to data should be provided completely free of charge, as the generation, maintenance and publication of large amounts of data can be resource-intensive. For instance, institutions dealing with huge volumes of data charge a fee for accessing the data. This is governed by the Public Information Act.

Given that charging a fee for access to open data discourages reuse and limits their potential, the majority of institutions publish their data free of charge. There is a general trend towards eliminating charges for data sets. For example, e-Business Register data was made available free of charge to everyone as of October 2022.

Reusability: A user with access to open data can freely share and reuse the data. Open data can be used for writing research papers, finding necessary information and even for commercial purposes.

The terms and conditions of data reuse are determined by the licence chosen by the publisher based on the content of the data set.

The potential of open data depends on the quality and format of the data. From a reuse perspective, well-structured and machine-readable data holds greater potential. The fact that data is not machine-readable and/or comprehensible to the reuser does not mean that it should not be published.

When publishing data, it is crucial to ensure that the data is made available in a format that facilitates reuse and is accompanied by adequate descriptions. By doing so, others can also benefit from the data, thereby further expanding the potential of open data. 

Why publish open data?

Economic impact of open data: By 2025, the European open data market is projected to reach a size of €199–334 billion, with around 1–2 million jobs associated with open data. You can read the study that estimates the market value of open data in Estonia to be around 350 million euros here

​More transparent governance:  The publication of open data enhances transparency in governance and ensures the accessibility of information. For institutions, this reduces workload by reducing the time required to respond to individual requests and the need for one-by-one data transmission. Public information compiled, created or obtained during the process of providing public services must be accessible to all. In this way, we contribute to enhancing transparency in public governance, provision of services and use of budgetary funds and ensure that every person has access to the information they need.

​Better services: Open data promotes the development of data-driven solutions and services as well as more research opportunities. The services built upon open data provide benefits to both the residents of a specific region as well as the entire population of Estonia. Examples of open data reuse can be found in the Estonian Open Data Portal.

​Saving resources: It is reasonable to publish data that has already been collected and stored once as open data. Such data may also be of value to other people who can use the data for purposes such as research, product development or management decision-making. Publishing open data allows people to maximise the generation of new knowledge or value by save up on resources spent on data collection and management.

How to publish data?

All open data in Estonia is published in the Estonian Open Data Portal.

Data publication forms a part of the data value chain:

  • data collection

  • data governance

  • data publication

  • data (re)use

The objective of data publication is to ensure that data is made accessible in a highly usable format. Consider all public data as if it is being used by someone (even if you are unsure of it). Keep in mind that the notion of ‘usability’ is relative: different user groups have different needs as well as different skills for data reuse. To ensure the broadest possible usability, it is essential to apply common principles and standards across the board, which are recognised and followed by both data publishers and users. It is also good to know who the reusers of your data are and collect feedback from them. 

​Follow the FAIR principle when publishing data

The FAIR principles outline the four key principles that, when applied, will maximise the value of published data for intended data users. The acronym FAIR stands for:

  • Findable

  • Accessible 

  • Interoperable

  • Reusable

​According to the FAIR principles, the foundation for effective data publication lies in having high-quality data descriptions and using machine-readable formats. At the same time, the quality of data, including the recency of data and data descriptions, must not be forgotten. 

​For more information on open data, check out the following courses offered by the Digital State Academy (available only in Estonian):

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