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Launch of it.ckan.net for open data in Italy!

The following guest post is by Stefano Costa and Federico Morando. Stefano Costa is a researcher at the University of Siena and Coordinator of the OKF’s Working Group on Open Data in Archaeology. Federico Morando is Managing Director & Research Fellow at the NEXA Center for Internet & Society and a member of the Working Group on EU Open Data.

We are delighted to announce that an Italian instance of CKAN is now live! You can see this at:

There are currently 67 packages available — thanks to the Extracting Value from Public Sector Information (EVPSI) project. In particular, the NEXA Center contributed material generated as part of the EVPSI project, which is funded by the Piedmont Region and coordinated by the University of Turin.

The site was launched on Sunday by OKF Director Rufus Pollock and NEXA Center co-director Juan Carlos De Martin at the 2010 Festival of Economics in Trento and is a collaboration between the Open Knowledge Foundation, the EVPSI project and the NEXA Center for Internet & Society.

The datasets that are currently available on the Italian instance of CKAN come from a first mapping of some of the main silos of public sector information (PSI) in Italy. Many more packages will be provided soon by EVPSI and the NEXA Center, as a product of a much more detailed mapping of PSI holding entities in the Italian Region of Piedmont.

Open data in Italy

Is Italy behind other countries with respect to open data? Judging from the data of the EVPSI project (and from the infringement procedure the the EU started against Italy), the answer to this question is ‘yes’, but things are changing. The Italian CKAN will hopefully help accelerate this change – providing a way for open data users and distributors to find datasets and see whether or not they can reuse them!

The new datasets on it.ckan.net include many which aren’t open, to help people get a ‘big picture’ about what datasets are out there, who holds them, how to download them and how open they are.

There are several bodies that produce data for their own institutional purposes, but most of the databases with clear commercial interest are only available by paying. And even when data are made available on the web they are distributed under restrictive terms of use or under unclear or no terms of use at all. That, considering the default status of potentially copyright and/or database right protected material (i.e. “All rights reserved”) implicitly means that no re-use is possible. This attitude is caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • lack of knowledge about the open data initiative and the benefits of open data for citizens and society at large
  • complex sub-licensing of datasets among many different public and private bodies, so that nobody can be considered the actual owner of data
  • a general fear of situations implying a loss of control over the re-use of data (coupled with a lack of internal guidelines about the access and re-use of data)
  • a difficult financial situation of PSI holders, pushing them to maximize their short run monetary income, without appropriately taking into account positive spillovers for the rest of society and in the medium/long run

For example ISTAT, the national institute of statistics, put their data online for free use, but unfortunately commercial reuse is not allowed – which may inhibit the development of innovative applications and services. See an overview of ISTAT datasets at CKAN.

A notable exception to this mindset is Regione Piemonte, that has recently launched a portal for open data at:

  • That result has been facilitated by the existence of common regional guidelines about the re-use of public data. What is more, all their currently available data are released under the CC0 license, enabling unrestricted re-use and dissemination by anyone, even for commercial purposes.

There are other regional governments offering some of their data (for example geospatial data) for free, but Piemonte is the only one explicitly adopting an open license. In all other cases, one has to ask for each case, and usually the answer is “free for non-commercial use” only.

The key point is that national and regional governments own large datasets that would be quite easily made available to the public. This process would however require 3 distinct actors, as outlined in the Open Data study by Becky Hogge:

  • government heads
  • civil servants (acting as the “middle layer”)
  • a small but determined group of citizens (or “civic hackers”)

Minister Brunetta promised “data.gov.it” in 6 months, but in the meantime we would like to get a more detailed picture of how open Italian public information is. In particular it will be interesting to see if any local authorities besides Regione Piemonte will consider following in the footsteps of many other local and national bodies around the world – and open up their data!

Interested in starting a new CKAN instance in your country?

If you’re interested in starting a new instance of CKAN for open data in your country, the Open Knowledge Foundation would be delighted to help! If you are able to help coordinate the translation and liaise with other local folks interested in open data — we can set up, host, and maintain the instance on our servers. Just pop us a line on the ckan-discuss list:

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