Information generated and collected by public sector bodies represents a veritable gold mine: optimal access to and reuse of this public sector information (PSI) has a positive impact on market services improvements, but also on the democratic involvement of citizens in governmental decisions.
For these reasons, global interest in PSI is growing rapidly, and two new PSI projects, LAPSI and EVPSI, have recently been launched in Europe:
- The LAPSI project is a European thematic network on legal aspects of PSI, gathering together skilled experts to discuss all the opportunities deriving from PSI and how to overcome the current legal obstacles to its reuse.
- EVPSI is a research project supported by Piedmont region in Italy, aiming to identify policy recommendations for PSI reuse, in particular at the subnational level.
Both projects aim to promote reuse, in part through a careful analysis of the social benefits of open public sector information. They both draw on the interconnection of three key perspectives in PSI reuse, with the recognition that open formats (from a technical perspective) and alternative options to exclusive or compensatory rights (from a legal perspective), would make it easier and therefore cheaper (from an economic perspective) to access and reuse PSI.
Both projects are led by Italian academic bodies: the Nexa Center for Internet and Society, affiliated to the the Politecnico di Torino, is the LAPSI thematic network coordinator; Torino Law School, together with Nexa Center and Fondazione Rosselli is involved in the EVPSI research project.
Thematic Network on Legal Aspects of Public Sector Information (LAPSI)
The LAPSI project is building a network which will become the main European point of reference for high-level policy discussions and strategic action, on all legal issues related to accessing and reusing PSI in the digital environment.
The LAPSI thematic network is founded on the belief that PSI reuse is a crucial issue, and that by removing current legal barriers to access and reuse, PSI would make a considerable contribution to EU economies and democratic societies.
LAPSI intends to consider legal barriers to access and reuse, and strategies to overcome them from the different and complementary perspectives of public and private law, stressing in particular administrative law, information law, intellectual property law, privacy law and competition law. LAPSI will deal both with established PSI areas – such as geographic and land register data – as well as novel areas – such as cultural data from archives, libraries, and scientific information.
The project started on March 22nd, 2010. It is coordinated by the Politecnico di Torino, and brings together twenty partners from across Europe, including researchers and academics who specialize in law and in economics, as well as key stakeholders in legal or technical fields (see here for a detailed list). The network will cover a substantial part of the European Union, as well as building strategic relationships with third countries such as the United States and Switzerland, where similar policy discussions are ongoing and have in some regards generated especially satisfactory outcomes.
The LAPSI network will build on the COMMUNIA experience, which was coordinated by POLITO/Nexa Center for Internet & Society; it further intends to forge links with European projects of reference such as ePSIplatform and to eventually set up a working relationship with nationally relevant projects such as ASITA (Italy), APORTA (Spain) and others.
The network will organise a range of events, including meetings, seminars, conferences and contests, giving members the chance to meet face-to-face, and achieve progress on a variety of specific goals. It has also established a public mailing list and a public wiki page, to share LAPSI’s progress and encourage external participation in its various activities.
For more information, see www.lapsi-project.eu.
Extracting Value from Public Sector Information: Legal Framework and Regional Policies (EVPSI)
EVPSI is a two-year Italian research project, financed by the region of Piedmont. It aims to identify policies which maximise the benefits of PSI reuse, while minimising risks and costs. The project started last October and was publicly launched on March 26th, 2010 (abstracts and slides from the seminar are available at the EVPSI website). Its intention is to address the difficult issues surrounding PSI by adopting a multidisciplinary perspective which, while focusing strongly on the legal dimension, also deals with economic and technological aspects.
The guiding hypothesis for the research project is that the establishment of policies at the local level on the basis of an extensive multidisciplinary and comparative inquiry is the best way to move forward under current conditions.
This project was partly conceived in response to procedures launched by the European Commission against Italy in March 2009, for infringement of Directive 20003/98/EC, which had established Europe-wide guidelines on PSI. This encouraged wide acknowledgement in Italy that best practices should be established, and that guidelines should be developed to maximize the potential benefits of access, dissemination and reuse of PSI, while minimizing the chances of inappropriate and damaging behaviour by PSI holders.
The EVPSI project brings together three major partners:
- Torino Law School (UNITO) is the leading partner in charge of the overall management and coordination of the project.
The Nexa Center for Internet & Society (POLITO) will support the project in specific areas where technology plays a crucial role, or where joint established economical experience is needed, as well as leading the Work Package on policy recommendations.
Fondazione Rosselli leads a Work Package on economic analysis, analysing the potential economic impact of PSI in Piedmont and beyond with the aim of maximizing the impact of the project on Piedmont’s economy and society.
The EVPSI project related material can be viewed at the EVPSI website.