The Open Knowledge Foundation was set up in 2004 as a non profit organisation and now run over 40 projects across the world.
The Foundation was set up in the UK and builds tools and communities to share open information globally.
The projects involve many people collaborating and co-operating together using the open data.
They cover areas from Shakespeare to OpenSpending, which allows users to explore, structure and map different kinds of public finance from all around the world.
It was co-founded by Rufus Pollock who enthusiastically revealed the history of data in at the FutureEverything conference in Manchester last week.
Rufus looked back to the first time data was recorded, which was around 5,000 years ago in Sumer, Mesopotamia, and he showed examples of the first census in 1801 and ended with the modern open data movement.
Rufus used the story of John Corapi, a Catholic Priest, to highlight how open data can be useful.
In 2002 the priest was told he needed a heart bypass, but on seeking a second opinion found this wasn’t true. Authorities discovered that the medial practice had been doing large numbers of unnecessary operations on healthy patients.
Rufus argued that if we lived in a world of open data then this would have been discovered much earlier.
He said that not everyone is paying attention to the data but by opening it up then people can spot these problems. He added: “Opening up data isn’t just about sharing it with the wider world.”
He explained that many places faced problems with licenses and rights, meaning they could collect the data and take it a part, but there was no way to weave it back together. “Openness is key” he noted.
Many governments, and companies are now looking into how they can use open data to help them.