Open repair reaches a major milestone: over 100,000 records of repair

We are incredibly happy to announce the release of our latest set of Open Repair Data, now containing over 100,000 repair attempts logged at community repair events around the world.

This release is a major milestone.  Consider that every record represents a member of the public with a broken electrical or electronic item, who has brought that item to a community repair event, and worked together with volunteers to try and bring the item back to life. The information and outcome of the repair has been logged by volunteers acting as citizen scientists.  And we know that the number of logged items represents only a fraction of the repair attempts happening around the world.  Repair is a huge movement.

Read on for the history of how the Open Repair Alliance reached the 100,000 milestone, and how the repair data has been used over time.

Where has the data come from?  

The Open Repair Alliance was founded in 2017 by a group of four community repair networks: anstiftung (Germany), Fixit Clinic (US), Repair Café International (Netherlands), and The Restart Project (UK), alongside iFixit as a policy partner. We agreed to collectively share our communities’ data on repair, and we officially launched live at Fixfest 2017, outlining our goals for the alliance with a public declaration:

…Together, we can present a much stronger case to manufacturers, designers and policy-makers. By using insights from thousands of repairs performed at community events, we can bring more urgency to citizens’ frustration with current product designs, and make change inevitable.  (read more)

Soon after, the first version of the Open Repair Data Standard was published, representing our initial steps in defining a way to collect and share repair data about small electricals and electronics from all partners.  Early in 2019, we saw the first sharing of community repair data from partners, and in the run up to Fixfest 2019 we produced our first combined dataset, aggregating almost 30,000 records of repair data together from partners for the first time. 

From then to now, the volume of repairs in the dataset has grown significantly, along with two updates to the data standard, and new networks such as Repair Cafe Wales, Repair Together (Belgium), and Repair Cafe Denmark making significant contributions of repair data along the way.  

As part of this latest release, data from core partners is included up to the end of March 2023, with new data added from a new provider – Repair Connects, a digital tool of the Sharepair project, used by a range of community groups to log and organise their repair activities.

YearMilestone 🎉
2017Founding of Open Repair AllianceRead more
ORDS v0.1: First version of the Open Repair Data StandardRead more
2019First sharing of data from partnersRead more
ORA data #1: 30,000 records in first aggregated dataset Read more 
2020ORA data #2: 42,000 records.  Repair Together starts contributing data through 🇧🇪Read more
2021ORDS v0.2: First major update to the data standardRead more
ORA data #3: 50,000 records.  Repair Cafe Wales data added 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿Read more
ORDS v0.3Read more
2022ORA data #4: 55,000 records.Read more
ORA data #5: 62,000 records.Read more
2023ORA data #6: 81,000 records.  Repair Cafe Denmark data added. 🇩🇰Read more
ORA data #7: Repair Connects data added. 🎉 100,000 records total! 🎉 

100,000 records of repair

This latest release contains 103,076 recorded repair attempts of electronic and electrical items, from 650 repair groups in 27 countries around the world.  

With a successful repair rate of 52.7%, we can see the impact that volunteer repair communities can make.  And we can see how much more of a difference we could make if the barriers to repair were reduced.

For those times we couldn’t fix the product, and where the repair barrier was logged, we see that lack of access to spare parts (due to availability or affordability) is the key barrier to repair, with no way to open the product being another key issue.

How has the repair community used open repair data?

Data alone doesn’t make a difference.  Right from the outset, we wanted to enable the repair community to use the open repair data to produce insights, to help make the case for more repairable products, improved support and access to better repair services.  

Citizen science and campaigning

We have run multiple citizen science projects on the ORA data, using it to determine common fault types of key product categories.  We’ve looked at mobiles, printers, tablets, batteries, laptops and vacuum cleaners. Insights from these analyses have been used by the European Right to Repair campaign to make the case for spare parts and repair information to be made widely available. 

The insights have also been used as evidence in multiple policy consultations, to contribute to the development of EU Right to Repair policies. Many viewpoints go into these consultations, and this community repair data represents a unique perspective of repair barriers as experienced by frustrated citizens.  Data from the communities represented by the Open Repair Alliance shows clearly the wide range of faults that people want to get fixed.  We want rules that make all products easier to fix, and our community repair data is an important  tool to help push for this. 

The data clearly shows that people are interested in repairing a wide range of products, most of which is not yet tackled by any upcoming repair regulation. The data also shows the wide range of faults experienced, which hints at the need for extensive spare parts availability, well beyond the efforts that most manufacturers are committing to voluntarily. Finally, the data shows that people care about extending product lifetimes well beyond what manufacturers are often supporting. We’ll continue to use these insights when advocating for Right to Repair, directly or via the European Right to Repair Campaign

How else can you use community repair data?

Right from the beginning we licenced the data with a Creative Commons licence, allowing anyone to access and use the data.  Over time we’ve seen hundreds of downloads from a diverse group of individuals and organisations, ranging from academics, students, repair cafe organisers, reporters and environmental agencies, to individuals simply interested in using an open dataset to study and learn data science.  The Open Repair Alliance data is a key dataset for the proposed European Open Repair Data Platform, part of a suite of digital tools for repair built to support the Sharepair project.

You can download the data right now, and see what you can do with it yourself:

Get involved

All of the open repair data comes from community repair groups around the world, helping people fix their broken items at Repair Cafés, Fixit Clinics, Restart Parties and more. The combined data is important at a global level, helping repairers worldwide to communicate the barriers to repair that we see every month.  Yet repair data can be incredibly valuable locally, too, helping groups measure and communicate their local impact.   If your group would like to get involved with collecting and sharing repair data, we have a page on how to get started.

We’re seeking help to power the future of our work on the Open Repair Data Standard, and especially to improve data aggregation and analysis going forward. If you are an academic or other research institution, or a company interested in open data and the repair economy, we’d love to hear from you! We’re actively seeking advisory support, sponsorship or direct contributions in other ways to strengthen this work – please get in touch.

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