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Formats for open data, machine readable and human readable

Open data should be provided in a format that makes it easy for others to re-use. This often means it should be in a machine readable format. The New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL), the all-of-government guidance for agencies to follow when releasing material for re-use, provides the best format options for the different types of data you might release.

Learning outcomes

• Understand what a machine readable format is.
• Understand which file formats are best for re-use.
• Select the appropriate file format for your data.

Document formats such as PDF, Word and sometimes Excel are considered human readable. They often contain extra formating, colours and styles that help people read them. However this can make them unsuitable formats for providing data for re-use and may mean a lot of time is spend cleaning the data up to be repurposed for other uses.

JSON and CSV are two machine readable formats that are recommended by the NZGOAL framework, read on below for a full set of guidance on file formats suitable for open data.

Detailed guidance