Free is an odd word. Free has a duality; gratis “for free”, and libre “with few restrictions”. When Martin Luther King said “Free… free at last… free at last” he wasn’t referring to the latest Sears buy-one-get-one-free offer.

True open data is both gratis and liberating. But when governments publish open data, they sometimes make our lives as global data users hard. Data buried behind API’s, local language versions, woeful meta-data, unclear usage rights, inconsistencies, flat-out errors, the list goes on.

Geolytix have done many pan-national analytical projects across dozens of countries that needed census data for the smallest areas possible. And the data had to be consistent, clean and comprehensive. Having spent many person-years sourcing, cleaning and standardising this data we have decided to share some of the outputs with you. Gratis and Libre.

So here is a ‘2011 census pack’ for ten European Countries. All the variables have consistent naming, meta data, attribution and formats. The data relates to the smallest geographical units each country uses for demographic reporting and comes with cleaned boundaries. This data covers ten key Western Europe countries; UK, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, Norway, Greece, Spain, Poland and Portugal. Some countries we would have loved to include but they have license restrictions that currently do not allow us to do so under a true libre license (we’re looking at you Ireland and Switzerland). We will be releasing similar packs for Eastern Europe shortly, and for many key Asian markets in the New Year.

This data is created by citizens via completing censuses, short form surveys, and by maintaining administrative records. It belongs to us all. It should be used and exploited as widely as possible.

The data is not perfect. There are many ‘value-added’ things we have used this data for. Harmonised pan-Europe variables, postal area aggregations, modelled affluence and life stage indices, edge-matched and simplified boundaries, spending power, retail expenditure, online penetrations. These are all things we have, and if you want to pay us you can use them too…. please get in touch.

Enjoy using these data, we hope they save you time and you do great work with them. This can include incorporating them in commercial products and outputs you share widely, but please remember you have to attribute the original sources and Geolytix.

Simply email open_census_europe@geolytix.com to receive a download link today. You are invited to leave a comment to let us know how you are using the data and which countries you’d like included in the next phase.