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Let’s defend Open Formats for Public Sector Information in Europe!

Regards Citoyens - December 3, 2012 in Access to Information, Campaigning, Open Data, Open Government Data, Open Standards, Open/Closed, Policy, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

Following some
remarks from Richard Swetenham from the European Commission
, we
made a few changes relative to the trialogue process and the coming
steps: the trialogue will start its meetings on 17th December and it
is therefore already very useful to call on our governments to support
Open Formats!

When we work on building all these amazing democratic transparency collaborative tools all over the world, all of us, Open Data users and producers, struggle with these incredibly frustrating closed or unexploitable formats under which public data is unfortunately so often released: XLS, PDF, DOC, JPG, completely misformatted tables, and so on.

The EU PSI directive revision is a chance to push for a clear Open Formats definition!

As part of Neelie Kroes’s Digital Agenda, the European Commission recently proposed a revision of the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive widening the scope of the existing directive to encourage public bodies to open up the data they produce as part of their own activities.

The revision will be discussed at the European Parliament (EP), and this is the citizen’s chance to advocate for a clear definition of the Open Formats under which public sector information (PSI) should be released.

We believe at Regards Citoyens that having a proper definition of Open Formats within the EU PSI directive revision would be a fantastic help to citizens and contribute to economic innovation. We believe such a definition can be summed-up to in two simple rules inspired by the Open Knowledge Foundation’s OpenDefinition principles:

  • being platform independant and machine-readable without any legal, financial or technical restriction;
  • being the result of an openly developped process in which all users can actually be part of the specifications evolution.

Those are the principles we advocated in a policy note on Open Formats we published last week and sent individually to all Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the committee voting on the revision of the PSI directive last thursday.

Good news: the first rule was adopted! But the second one was not. How did that work?

ITRE vote on Nov 29th: what happened and how?

EP meetingA meeting at the European Parliament
CC-BY-ND EPP Group

The European parliamentary process first involves a main committee in charge of preparing the debates before the plenary session, in our case the Industry, Research and Energy committee (ITRE). Its members met on 29th November around 10am to vote on the PSI revision amongst other files.

MEPs can propose amendments to the revision beforehand, but, to speed up the process, the European Parliament works with what is called “compromise amendments” (CAs): the committee chooses a rapporteur leading the file in its name and each political group gets a “shadow rapporteur” to work together with the main rapporteur. They all study the proposed amendments together and try to sum them up in a few consensual ones called CAs, hence leading MEPs to pull away some amendments when they consider their concerns met. During the committee meeting, both kinds of amendment are voted on in accordance with predefined voting-list indicating the rapporteur’s recommandations.

Regarding Open Formats, everything relied on a proposition to add to the directive‘s 2nd article a paragraph providing a clear definition of what an Open Format actually is. The rapporteurs work led to a pretty good compromise amendment 18, which speaks pretty much for itself:

« An open format is one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without legal, technical or financial restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information. »

This amendment was adopted, meaning this change will be proposed as a new amendment to all MEPs during the plenary debate. Given that it has the support of the rapporteur in the name of the responsible committee, it stands a good chance of being carried.

Regarding the open development process condition, MEP Amelia Andersdotter, shadow rapporteur for the European Parliament Greens group, maintained and adapted to this new definition her amendment 65:

« "open format" means that the format’s specification is maintained by a not-for-profit organisation the membership of which is not contingent on membership fees; its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties; the format specification document is available freely; the intellectual property of the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis. »

Even though it also got recommanded for approval by the main rapporteur, unfortunately the ALDE and EPP groups were not ready to support it yet and it got rejected.

Watching the 12 seconds during which the Open Formats issues were voted is a strange experience to anyone not familiar with the European Parliament, since most of the actual debate happens beforehand between the different rapporteurs, the committee meeting mainly consists of a succession of raised hand votes calls, which are occasionally electronically checked. Therefore, there are no public individual votes or records of these discussions available and the vote happens very quickly.

What next? Can we do anything?

Now that the ITRE committee has voted, its report should soon be made available online

As the European institutions work as a tripartite organisation, the text adopted by the ITRE committee will now be transferred to both the European Commission and Council for approval. This includes a trialogue procedure in which a consensus towards a common text must be driven. This is an occasion to call on our respective national governments to push in favor of Open Formats in order toc maintain and improve the definition which the EP already adopted.

The text which comes out of the tripartite debate will be discussed in plenary session, planned at the moment for 11th March 2013. Until noon on the Wednesday preceding the plenary, MEPs will still have the possibility to propose new amendments to be voted on at plenary: they can do so either as a whole political group, or as a group of at least 40 different MEPs from any groups.

Possible next steps to advocate Open Formats could therefore be the following:

  • Call on our national governments to push in favor of Open Formats;
  • Keep up-to-date with documents and procedures from the European Parliament: ParlTrack offers e-mail alerts on the dossier;
  • Whenever the proposition of new amendments towards the plenary debate is opened, we should contact our respective national MEPs from all political groups and urge them to propose amendments requiring Open Formats to be based on an open development process. Having multiple amendments coming from different political groups would certainly help MEPs realize this is not a partisan issue;
  • When the deadline for proposing amendments is reached, we should call on our MEPs by email, phone calls or Tweets to vote for such amendments and possibly against some opposed ones. In order to allow anyone to easily and freely phone their MEPs, we’re thinking about reusing La Quadrature du Net‘s excellent PiPhone tool for EU citizen advocacy.

In any case, contacting MEPs to raise concerns on Open Formats policies can of course always be useful at all times before and after the plenary debates. Policy papers, amendments proposals, vulgarisation documents, blogposts, open-letters, a petititon, tweets, … It can all help!

To conclude, we would like to stress once again that Regards Citoyens is an entirely voluntary organisation without much prior experience with the European Parliament. This means help and expertise is much appreciated! Let’s get all ready to defend Open Formats for European Open Data in a few weeks!

Regards Citoyens — CC-BY-SA

ePSI Platform Conference 2012

Daniel Dietrich - March 23, 2012 in Events, Open Government Data

On Friday the 16th of March, the European Public Service Information (ePSI) Platform conference was held in Rotterdam. More than 300 guests from all over the world gathered for what turned out to be a very busy and interesting day. In 15 sessions 60 speakers gave an overview on a wide variety of open data related issues. From key registries to data journalism, from pricing models to data visualisation and from local data to national data portals. See the full programme.

The conference, called “Taking re-use to the next level“, was opened by a warm welcome by Ms Korrie Louwes, vice-mayor of Rotterdam. See the video recording and the full text of her welcome speech.

The second welcome message came, by video, from EC VP Commissioner Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda. She called upon the conference participants to go out and make the case for open data more strongly. Explaining the proposed EU open data strategy Commissioner Kroes also made clear that it is not enough to just rely on the legislative process, as work needs to be done on cultural change as well. Practical examples of open data re-use, and grass roots support and experiences play an important role here. “Dare to try!“, and thus help make the case for Open Data, and showing every public sector body in the EU that “opening data will pay off“. See full video message by Mrs. Neelie Kroes.

 

 

Plenary I: The revised PSI Directive

The welcoming notes were followed by a panel discussion on the proposed amendment of the PSI Directive with Richard Swetenham (Headof Unit DG INFSO of the European Commission), Chris Taggart (CEO & Co-Founder OpenCorporates), Peter Hecker (Chairman of GEOkomm Germany) and Anton Eliassen (Director National Meteo Institute Norway and former Chair ECOMET Council).

 

Plenary I: The revised PSI Directive from ePSI platform on Vimeo.

 

The discussion was opened by Marc de Vries from the ePSI platform with an overview on the Directive and the proposed amendments. In short the main areas of changes to the PSI Directive as proposed in the European Commission’s “Open Data Strategy” in December 2011 are:

  • All data made available by government institutions must be able to be generally used for commercial and non-commercial purposes;
  • In principle, the costs charged by government institutions may not exceed the costs involved in the individual request for information (marginal costs – in practice usually free of charge);
  • Member States must introduce regulatory supervision to monitor compliance with the aforementioned principles;
  • the scope of the Directive will be extended to include information from libraries, museums and archives.

Plenary 2 – Vistas of Open Data, what are the pockets of new initiatives?

The second panel with Brigitte Zonneveld (Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation), Francois Bancilhon (CEO of Data Publica, France) and Andrew Stott (former Director for Transparency and digital engagement UK Cabinet Office) was moderated by Ton Zijlstra. See the discussion.

 

Plenary II: Vistas of Open Data, what´s ahead from ePSI platform on Vimeo.

 

ePSI Trailblazers 2012

At the end of the second Plenary the winners of the ePSI Trailblazers were awarded on stage. The ePSI trailblazers are innovative ‘trailblazers’, who’ve done something new and exciting re-using PSI. You can visit the ePSI Trailblazers here.

 

 

The two Plenary Sessions were followed 12 sessions in the form of workshops facilitated by speakers and moderators on a variety of topics such as local Open Data initiatives, role of competition authorities, Open Data as business model for the public sector, data journalism, and much more. Check out the video recordings from some of the sessions and pictures from the conference.

 

There is also this very nice video from Elmine Wijnia

ePSI conference 2012: taking re-use to the next level from Elmine Wijnia on Vimeo.

 

Announcing the ePSI Trailblazers 2012

Daniel Dietrich - February 23, 2012 in Events, Open Data

In the run to the upcoming ePSI Conference 2012 on 16th March in Rotterdam, Netherlands, we are very excited to announce the ePSI Trailblazers 2012.

What are the ePSI Trailblazers?

What if, instead of handing out another award, we could offer you both recognition from your peers and help in improving your work? At the ePSI Conference, you’ll have the chance to present your ideas and get help in making these ideas even better!

The ePSIplatform is looking for PSI re-use innovators – the ‘trailblazers’ – who have done something new and exciting with open data in the past year. Similar to other open data competitions, criteria for selection would include:

  1. Usefulness to the citizens, visitors and public sector
  2. Potential for application to be useful for other governmental bodies,
    including in other Member States
  3. Appeal of the application from a usability perspective
  4. Inventive and original nature of the application

Selected initiatives can include both well established applications and services, and new/start-up initiatives, proofs-of-concept and demos. Trailblazers will get the opportunity to give a five minute presentation at the EPSI conference to explain what they’ve done and why this is innovative.

However – and this is where trailblazers get more than a simple award – the winners would also be asked to explain in a few minutes what they need to move their initiative forward, and to do even better things with it. This can be as straightforward as getting new seed funding, but may also involve more pragmatic things: help in liaising with other governments, finding new programmers/hackers to help build technical improvements, organizing brainstorming sessions to identify new application areas, identifying new relevant data sets, getting legal assistance, etc. The EPSI team will then try to help them achieve this objective by providing funding or material assistance.

This innovative approach will have a much more pragmatic impact on the recipients: they can present their needs, and we will try to help them in building better services.

Who are the PSI Trailblazers?

Help us to find the ePSI Trailblazers 2012 by filling in this form!

The ePSI Trailblazers will be awarded at the up coming ePSIplatform Conference 2012, 16 March 2012, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

More on the ePSI Conference 2012

For more information on the ePSI Conference 2012 see the provisional programme and don’t miss to register here!

ePSIplatform Conference 2012

Daniel Dietrich - January 4, 2012 in Events, Open Government Data

The following post is by the organisers of the ePSIplatform Conference 2012 and is cross-posted from epsiplatform.eu.

16 March 2012, Rotterdam, Netherlands

With the progress the open data movement has made in the past few years, and the announcement of the European Open Data Strategy by the European Commission, we are reaching a new maturity level in the open data arena. We are ready to move to the next level, in terms of adoption by governments, in terms of the number and background of people involved, the mass and volume of data available for re-use, the business and distribution models, the size of the economic value involved, and the technology facilitating these developments.

Come to Rotterdam on March 16, and go ‘level up’!

Are you:
A public data holder, an application builder, a data journalist, a policy maker, a competition authority, an open data community member, a data portal owner, an advisor to re-users or policy makers, a long time commercial re-user, a start-up director, representing an NGO, or a researcher on these topics? We cordially invite you to the ePSIplatform.eu 2012 conference!

A few plenary, and many parallel sessions:
On a wide variety of topics: changing local policy issues with local open data, data journalism, the internal business case for open data, increasing a sector’s effectiveness with open data (such as international aid), data visualization, open data for participation and self empowerment, licensing, pan-European initiatives, PSI Directive review, data protection and privacy, combining public data and personal data: the Quantified Self, obstacles of PSI r-euse, (financing of) ‘key registries’, checks and balances: redress and compliance.

And of course plenty of time to connect and network!

We’ll let you know how the program and list of speakers is shaping up over time.

Registration is free! Get your ticket now…. see you in Rotterdam!

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