Open data in government and health is a relatively new concept that has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Linked to (and other open movements), OD seems to follow the interest of increasing the openness and transparency in many areas of civil society and government. Similar to its and counterparts, the open data trend is seen as linked to the rise of information technologies in the cloud (e.g. ) and the need to address the concerns associated with commercialization (and proprietarization) of publicly-funded research. To be truly open, OD must be provided on an "open platform" without restrictions, controls or other barriers that prevent access to needed information - such as copyright or patents. When speaking of research information or data, we often think of information that results from experiments, and this includes data sets, microarray, numerical data, clinical trial information, textual records, images and even multimedia. This data is critical for many researchers to do their work as it is used to validate scientific findings, observations and hypotheses of various kinds. By making government and health data more open you also make it possible to encourage more efficient knowledge production - which is also widely-recognized as being a critical part of solving society's most pressing problems.
The other aspect of OD is making government information openly and freely-accessible at all levels. (For further information, see in Wikipedia.)
Select open data projects & initiatives
Linked Data - Connect Distributed Data across the Web
Managing Information in the Public Sector: Shaping the New Information Space