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European Commission launches Open Data Strategy for Europe

The following post is from Jonathan Gray, Community Coordinator at the Open Knowledge Foundation.

This morning Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda announced a new Open Data Strategy for Europe.

I wrote a bit of background on the announcement on Friday for the Guardian Datablog, discussing what this might mean for open data in Europe.

There were some great bits and pieces in Neelie Kroes’s talk, including:

  • “The best way to get value from data is to give it away”
  • Exemplars include data.gov.uk, data.gouv.fr, Tim Berners-Lee, the Open Knowledge Foundation, OpenSpending.org and WheelMap
  • “Instead of needing complicated authorisations you will be automatically allowed to reuse the public data you need.”
  • “Fees will be limited to marginal cost.” – If this means “marginal cost of reproduction” (which tends towards zero for digital material), and if this is enforced this will be a huge deal for open data and Public Sector Information in Europe!
  • Mention of cultural heritage organisations – although data will not be free of cost except where institutions agree to this.
  • “The revised Directive will need approval from the Parliament and the Council – [...] but my real message is that Public Authorities do not need to wait for this package to become law, start this afternoon. You can give your data away now and generate revenue and jobs.” – I.e. the importance of ‘soft measures’ related to open data and PSI, not just ‘hard law’.
  • “I also say to private business – open your data.” – A very important aside!
  • “Lets join together and share our data. The outcome for everybody is more than when you keep it for yourself.” – Importance of individuals and organisations collaborating around public data.

From the press release:

> Brussels, 12 December 2011 – The Commission has launched an Open Data Strategy for Europe, which is expected to deliver a €40 billion boost to the EU’s economy each year. Europe’s public administrations are sitting on a goldmine of unrealised economic potential: the large volumes of information collected by numerous public authorities and services. Member States such as the United Kingdom and France are already demonstrating this value. The strategy to lift performance EU-wide is three-fold: firstly the Commission will lead by example, opening its vaults of information to the public for free through a new data portal. Secondly, a level playing field for open data across the EU will be established. Finally, these new measures are backed by the €100 million which will be granted in 2011-2013 to fund research into improved data-handling technologies.

> These actions position the EU as the global leader in the re-use of public sector information. They will boost the thriving industry that turns raw data into the material that hundreds of millions of ICT users depend on, for example smart phone apps, such as maps, real-time traffic and weather information, price comparison tools and more. Other leading beneficiaries will include journalists and academics.

> Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: “We are sending a strong signal to administrations today. Your data is worth more if you give it away. So start releasing it now: use this framework to join the other smart leaders who are already gaining from embracing open data. Taxpayers have already paid for this information, the least we can do is give it back to those who want to use it in new ways that help people and create jobs and growth.” See Mrs Kroes video quote here.

> The Commission proposes to update the 2003 Directive on the re-use of public sector information by:

> * Making it a general rule that all documents made accessible by public sector bodies can be re-used for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, unless protected by third party copyright; > * Establishing the principle that public bodies should not be allowed to charge more than costs triggered by the individual request for data (marginal costs); in practice this means most data will be offered for free or virtually for free, unless duly justified. > * Making it compulsory to provide data in commonly-used, machine-readable formats, to ensure data can be effectively re-used. > * Introducing regulatory oversight to enforce these principles; > * Massively expanding the reach of the Directive to include libraries, museums and archives for the first time; the existing 2003 rules will apply to data from such institutions.

> In addition, the Commission will make its own data public through a new “data portal”, for which the Commission has already agreed the contract. This portal is currently in ‘beta version’ (development and testing phase) with an expected launch in spring 2012. In time this will serve as a single-access point for re-usable data from all EU institutions, bodies and agencies and national authorities.


We’re still digesting the announcement and what it will mean for open data in Europe. If you’re interested in discussing this further, you can join the euopendata.

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