Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

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.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

More