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Unveiling the European Open Data Strategy

BY Antonella Napolitano | Tuesday, December 13 2011

Yesterday the European Commission announced the creation of an Open Data Strategy, a set of measures aimed at increasing government transparency.

The announcement follows similar moves from the UK and France, the latter launching its national open data portal just last week.

The Open Data Strategy will make a general rule that all documents made accessible by public sector bodies can be re-used for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial; data will be provided in commonly-used, machine-readable formats, to ensure data can be effectively re-used.

In this time of economic crisis an open data strategy could open up new economic opportunities (and the press release states it from the headline, "turning government data into gold"): a recent study indicates that the economic gains from the opening of public sector information are around € 40 billion a year for the EU27. "However," states a memo with further information on the topic, "the total direct and indirect economic gains from easier PSI re-use across the whole EU27 economy would be in the order of € 140 billion annually."

The benefits aren’t just economic, says Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes on her blog, explaining the move:

They improve the transparency of our democratic and public institutions. They can improve the quality of decision-making within public administrations themselves – through informed, evidence-based policymaking. And they can help those from all sectors of society – like apps that help people with disabilities find wheelchair-accessible buildings.
Today’s legal proposals are in two parts. First, the Commission itself will be practising what we preach, putting our own data on a single portal, free, open, easy to use. And we are pushing the EU’s other institutions and agencies to join us too.

But the most interesting message is probably the one Commissioner Kroes sent to the governments and agencies of the 27 EU countries: "My message to public authorities is clear: you don’t have to wait for this package to become law. You can give away your data now – and generate revenue and jobs, and even save money from the better information and decisions that will flow."

The EU data will be released in a data portal that will serve as a single-access point for re-usable data from all EU institutions, bodies and agencies and national authorities; for the first time libraries, museums and archives will be included.

The portal is expected to launch in spring 2012.

The Open Data strategy updates a  2003 Directive on the re-use of public sector information; detailed information is provided in a Questions and Answers document.

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