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What data counts in Europe? Towards a public debate on Europe’s high value data and the PSI Directive

- January 16, 2019 in Open Government Data, Open Standards, Policy, research

This blogpost was co-authored by Danny Lämmerhirt and Pierre Chrzanowski (*author note at the bottom) January 22 will mark a crucial moment for the future of open data in Europe. That day, the final trilogue between European Commission, Parliament, and Council is planned to decide over the ratification of the updated PSI Directive. Among others, the European institutions will decide over what counts as ‘high value’ data. What essential information should be made available to the public and how those data infrastructures should be funded and managed are critical questions for the future of the EU. As we will discuss below, there are many ways one might envision the collective ‘value’ of those data. This is a democratic question and we should not be satisfied by an ill and broadly defined proposal. We therefore propose to organise a public debate to collectively define what counts as high value data in Europe.

What does PSI Directive say about high value datasets?  

The European Commission provides several hints in the current revision of the PSI Directive on how it envisions high value datasets. They are determined by one of the following ‘value indicators’:
  • The potential to generate significant social, economic, or environmental benefits,
  • The potential to generate innovative services,
  • The number of users, in particular SMEs,  
  • The revenues they may help generate,  
  • The data’s potential for being combined with other datasets
  • The expected impact on the competitive situation of public undertakings.
Given the strategic role of open data for Europe’s Digital Single Market, these indicators are not surprising. But as we will discuss below, there are several challenges defining them. Also, there are different ways of understanding the importance of data. The annex of the PSI Directive also includes a list of preliminary high value data, drawing primarily from the key datasets defined by Open Knowledge International’s (OKI’s) Global Open Data Index, as well as the G8 Open Data Charter Technical Annex. See the proposed list in the table below. List of categories and high-value datasets:
Category Description
1. Geospatial Data Postcodes, national and local maps (cadastral, topographic, marine, administrative boundaries).
2. Earth observation and environment Space and situ data (monitoring of the weather and of the quality of land and water, seismicity, energy consumption, the energy performance of buildings and emission levels).
3. Meteorological data Weather forecasts, rain, wind and atmospheric pressure.
4. Statistics National, regional and local statistical data with main demographic and economic indicators (gross domestic product, age, unemployment, income, education).
5. Companies Company and business registers (list of registered companies, ownership and management data, registration identifiers).
6. Transport data Public transport timetables of all modes of transport, information on public works and the state of the transport network including traffic information.
  According to the proposal, regardless of who provide them, these datasets shall be available for free, machine-readable and accessible for download, and where appropriate, via APIs. The conditions for re-use shall be compatible with open standard licences.

Towards a public debate on high value datasets at EU level

There has been attempts by EU Member States to define what constitutes high-value data at national level, with different results. In Denmark, basic data has been defined as the five core information public authorities use in their day-to-day case processing and should release. In France, the law for a Digital Republic aims to make available reference datasets that have the greatest economic and social impact. In Estonia, the country relies on the X-Road infrastructure to connect core public information systems, but most of the data remains restricted. Now is the time for a shared and common definition on what constitute high-value datasets at EU level. And this implies an agreement on how we should define them. However, as it stands, there are several issues with the value indicators that the European Commission proposes. For example, how does one define the data’s potential for innovative services? How to confidently attribute revenue gains to the use of open data? How does one assess and compare the social, economic, and environmental benefits of opening up data? Anyone designing these indicators must be very cautious, as metrics to compare social, economic, and environmental benefits may come with methodical biases. Research found for example, that comparing economic and environmental benefits can unfairly favour data of economic value at the expense of fuzzier social benefits, as economic benefits are often more easily quantifiable and definable by default. One form of debating high value datasets could be to discuss what data gets currently published by governments and why. For instance, with their Global Open Data Index, Open Knowledge International has long advocated for the publication of disaggregated, transactional spending figures. Another example is OKI’s Open Data For Tax Justice initiative which wanted to influence the requirements for multinational companies to report their activities in each country (so-called ‘Country-By-Country-Reporting’), and influence a standard for publicly accessible key data.   A public debate of high value data should critically examine the European Commission’s considerations regarding the distortion of competition. What market dynamics are engendered by opening up data? To what extent do existing markets rely on scarce and closed information? Does closed data bring about market failure, as some argue (Zinnbauer 2018)? Could it otherwise hamper fair price mechanisms (for a discussion of these dynamics in open access publishing, see Lawson and Gray 2016)? How would open data change existing market dynamics? What actors proclaim that opening data could purport market distortion, and whose interests do they represent? Lastly, the European Commission does not yet consider cases of government agencies  generating revenue from selling particularly valuable data. The Dutch national company register has for a long time been such a case, as has the German Weather Service. Beyond considering competition, a public debate around high value data should take into account how marginal cost recovery regimes currently work.

What we want to achieve

For these reasons, we want to organise a public discussion to collectively define
  1. i) What should count as a high value datasets, and based on what criteria,
  2. ii) What information high value datasets should include,
  3. ii) What the conditions for access and re-use should be.
The PSI Directive will set the baseline for open data policies across the EU. We are therefore at a critical moment to define what European societies value as key public information. What is at stake is not only a question of economic impact, but the question of how to democratise European institutions, and the role the public can play in determining what data should be opened.

How you can participate

  1. We will use the Open Knowledge forum as main channel for coordination, exchange of information and debate. To join the debate, please add your thoughts to this thread or feel free to start a new discussion for specific topics.
  2. We gather proposals for high value datasets in this spreadsheet. Please feel free to use it as a discussion document, where we can crowdsource alternative ways of valuing data.
  3. We use the PSI Directive Data Census to assess the openness of high value datasets.
We also welcome any reference to scientific paper, blogpost, etc. discussing the issue of high-value datasets. Once we have gathered suggestions for high value datasets, we would like to assess how open proposed high-value datasets are. This will help to provide European countries with a diagnosis of the openness of key data.     Author note: Danny Lämmerhirt is senior researcher on open data, data governance, data commons as well as metrics to improve open governance. He has formerly worked with Open Knowledge International, where he led its research activities, including the methodology development of the Global Open Data Index 2016/17. His work focuses, among others, on the role of metrics for open government, and the effects metrics have on the way institutions work and make decisions. He has supervised and edited several pieces on this topic, including the Open Data Charter’s Measurement Guide. Pierre Chrzanowski is Data Specialist with the World Bank Group and a co-founder of Open Knowledge France local group. As part of his work, he developed the Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) Index, a tool to assess the openness of key datasets for disaster risk management projects. He has also participated in the impact assessment prior to the new PSI Directive proposal and has contributed to the Global Open Data Index as well as the Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer.

Paris Peace Forum Hackathon: A new chance to talk about open data

- November 27, 2018 in Events, Open Data, Open Government Data, open-government, paris peace forum

A few weeks ago we had the chance to attend the first edition of the Paris Peace Forum. The goal of this new initiative is to exchange and discuss concrete global governance solutions. More than 10,000 people attended, 65 Heads of State and Government were present, and 10 international organizations leaders convened for those three days at La Grande Halle de La Villette.   In parallel, the Paris Peace Forum hosted a hackathon to find new approaches to different challenges proposed by four different organizations. Hosted by the awesome Datactivist team, during these three days we worked on: Transparency of international organizations budgets, Transparency of major international event budgets, Transparency of public procurement procedures and Communication of financial data to the public. We had an attendance of about 80 participants, both experts in different topics, students from France and people interested in collaborating on building solutions. The approach was simple: Let’s look at the problems and see what kind of data will be useful. Day one The first day of the hackathon we got to hear the challenges that each organization had for us. Then we form teams based on the interests of the participants. This left us with smaller teams that would get to work on their projects along with the mentors. On that first day we also had the presence of two Heads of State to talk about innovation and technology. The first day concluded with a few ideas of what we wanted to do as well as a better understanding of the data that we could use. Day two Day two was the most intense. The teams got to decide what their solution would be and build it, or at least get to a minimum viable product. This was no simple task. Some teams had a hard time deciding what kind of solution they wanted to build. Some teams made user personas and user stories, some authors looked at data and built their solutions from there and some others started from a very specific set of problems related to their challenge. By the end of this day the teams had to present their projects to the other teams as well as to the mentors with at least some advances on their final projects. ​Day three Day three was a day full of excitement, but also for the mentors since we had to take one final project to present on the main stage of the Paris Peace Forum. During the morning the teams tweaked and fixed their projects and prepared their pitches, then presented to the mentors. Selecting only one final project for each of the challenges was a challenge by itself. But in the end we ended up with four really great projects:
  • Contract Fit selected by Open State Foundation
  • Tackling Climate Change – selected by the World Bank
  • LA PORTE – selected by the Open Contracting Partnership
  • Know your chances – selected by ETALAB
Each of these teams presented their projects at the main stage of the Paris Peace Forum. You can see the video here. This was a really interesting first edition of a hackathon in such a high level event covering such important topics. I was really happy to see so much engagement from both participants and mentors. It was also great to see the amazing job that our hosts made at putting all this together. We expect to see this exercise of innovation become a crucial part of future instances of the Peace Forum.  

The next target user group for the open data movement is governments

- September 18, 2018 in Open Data, Open Government Data

Here’s an open data story that might sound a bit counterintuitive. Last month a multinational company was negotiating with an African government to buy an asset. The company, which already owned some of the asset but wanted to increase its stake, said the extra part was worth $6 million. The government’s advisers said it was worth at least three times that. The company disputed that. The two sides met for two days and traded arguments, sometimes with raised voices, but the meeting broke up inconclusively. A week later, half way round the world, the company’s headquarters issued a new investor presentation. Like all publicly listed companies, its release was filed with the appropriate stock market regulator, and sent out by email newsletter. Where a government adviser picked it up. In it, the company  advertised to investors how it had increased the value of its asset – the asset discussed in Africa – by four times in 18 months, and gave a valuation of the asset now. Their own valuation, it turned out, was indeed roughly three times the $6 million the company had told the government it was worth. Probably, the negotiators were not in touch with the investor relations people. But the end result was that the company had blown its negotiating position because, in effect, as a whole institution, it didn’t think a small African government could understand disclosure practise on an international stock market, subscribe to newsletters, or read their website. The moral of the story is: we need to expand the way we think about governments and open data. In the existing paradigm, governments are seen as the targets of advocacy campaigns, to release data they hold for public good, and enact legislation which binds themselves, and others, to release. Civil society tries hunts for internal champions within government, international initiatives (EITI, OGP etc) seek to bind governments in to emergent best practise, and investigative journalists and whistleblowers highlight the need for better information by dramatic cases of all the stuff that goes wrong and is covered up. And all of that is as it should be. But what we see regularly in our work at OpenOil is that there is also huge potential to engage government – at all levels – as users of open data. Officials in senior positions are sitting day after day, month after month, trying to make difficult decisions, under the false impression that they have little or no data. Often they don’t have clear understanding and access to data produced by other parts of their own government, and they are unaware of the host of broader datasets and systems. Initiatives like EITI which were founded to serve the public interest in data around natural resources have found a new and receptive audience in various government departments seeking to get a joined up view of their own data. And imagine if governments were regular and systematic users of open data and knowledge systems, how it might affect their interaction with advocacy campaigns. Suddenly, this would not be a one way street – governments would be getting something out of open data, not just responding to what, from their perspective, often seems like the incessant demands of activists. It could become more of a mutual backscratching dynamic. There is a paradox at the heart of much government thinking about information. In institutions with secretive cultures, there can be a weird ellipsis of the mind in which information which is secret must be important, and information which is open must be, by definition, worthless. Working on commercial analysis of assets managed by governments, we often find senior officials who believe they can’t make any progress because their commercial partners, the multinationals, hold all the data and don’t release it. While it is true that there is a stark asymmetry of information, we have half a dozen cases where the questions the government needed to answer could be addressed by data downloadable from the Internet. You have to know where to look of course. But it’s not rocket science. In one case, a finance ministry official had all the government’s “secret” data sitting on his laptop but we decided to go ahead and model a major mining project using public statements by the company anyway because the permissions needed from multiple departments to show the data to anyone else, let alone incorporate them in a model which might be published, would take months or years. Of course reliance on open data is likely to leave gaps and involves careful questions of interpretation. But our experience is that these have never been “deal breakers” – we have never had to abandon an analytical project because we couldn’t achieve good enough results with public data. Because the test of any analytical project is not “is it perfect?” but “does it take us on from where we are now, and can we comfortably state what we think the margins of error are?”. The potential is not confined to the Global South. Government at all levels and in all parts of the world could benefit greatly from more strategic use of open data. And it is in the interest of the open data movement to help them.

A short story about Open Washing

- August 20, 2018 in IODC, iodc18, Open Data, Open Government Data, openwashing

Great news! The International Open Data Conference (IODC) accepted my proposal about Open Washing. The moment I heard this I wanted to write something to invite everyone to our session. It will be a follow-up to the exchange we had during IODC in 2015. First a couple disclaimers: This text is not exactly about data. Open Washing is not an easy conversation to have. It’s not a comfortable topic for anyone, whether you work in government or civil society. Sometimes we decide to avoid it (I’m looking at you, OGP Summit!). To prepare this new session I went through the history of our initial conversation. I noticed that my awesome co-host, Ana Brandusescu summarised everything here. I invite you to read that blogpost and then come back. Or keep reading and then read the other post. Either way, don’t miss Ana’s post. What comes next is a story. I hope this story will illustrate why these uncomfortable conversations are important. Second disclaimer: everything in this story is true. It is a fact that these things happened. Some of them are still happening. It is not a happy story, and I’m sorry if some people might feel offended by me telling it. There was once a country that had a pretty young democracy. That country was ruled by one political party for 70 years and then, 18 years ago decided it was enough. Six years ago, that political party came back. They won the presidential election. How this happened is questionable but goes beyond the reach of this story right now. When this political party regained power the technocrats thought this was good news. Some international media outlets thought the new president would even “save” the country. The word “save” may sound like too much but there was a big wave of violence that had built from previous years. Economic development was slow and social issues were boiling. There was a big relationship of this to corruption in many levels of government. In this context, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The president’s office decided to make open government a priority. Open data would be a tool to promote proactive transparency and economic development. They signed all the international commitments they could. They chaired international spaces for everything transparency related. They set up a team with young and highly prepared professionals to turn all this into reality. But then, the tunnel seemed to extend and the light seemed dimmer. In spite of these commitments some things that weren’t supposed to happen, happened. Different journalistic researches found out what seemed like acts of corruption. A government contractor gave the president 7 million dollar house during the campaign. The government awarded about 450 million USD in irregular contracts. Most of these contracts didn’t even result in actual execution of works or delivery of goods. They spied on people from the civil society groups that collaborated with them. 45 journalists, who play a big role in this story, were murdered in the last 6 years. For doing their job. For asking questions that may be uncomfortable for some people. There is a lot more to the story but I will leave it here. That doesn’t mean it ends here. It’s still happening. It seems like this political party doesn’t care about using open washing anymore. They don’t care anymore because they’re leaving. But we should care because we stay. We need to talk and discuss this in the open. The story of this country, my country, is very particular and surreal but holds a lot of lessons. This is probably the worst invitation you’ve ever received. But I know there are a lot of lessons and knowledge out there. So if you are around, come to our session during IODC. If you’re not, talk about this issue where you live. Or reach out to others who might be interested. It probably won’t be comfortable but you will for sure bring a new perspective to your work. This is also an invitation to try it.

Europe’s proposed PSI Directive: A good baseline for future open data policies?

- June 21, 2018 in eu, licence, Open Data, Open Government Data, Open Standards, Policy, PSI, research

Some weeks ago, the European Commission proposed an update of the PSI Directive**. The PSI Directive regulates the reuse of public sector information (including administrative government data), and has important consequences for the development of Europe’s open data policies. Like every legislative proposal, the PSI Directive proposal is open for public feedback until July 13. In this blog post Open Knowledge International presents what we think are necessary improvements to make the PSI Directive fit for Europe’s Digital Single Market.    In a guest blogpost Ton Zijlstra outlined the changes to the PSI Directive. Another blog post by Ton Zijlstra and Katleen Janssen helps to understand the historical background and puts the changes into context. Whilst improvements are made, we think the current proposal is a missed opportunity, does not support the creation of a Digital Single Market and can pose risks for open data. In what follows, we recommend changes to the European Parliament and the European Council. We also discuss actions civil society may take to engage with the directive in the future, and explain the reasoning behind our recommendations.

Recommendations to improve the PSI Directive

Based on our assessment, we urge the European Parliament and the Council to amend the proposed PSI Directive to ensure the following:
  • When defining high-value datasets, the PSI Directive should not rule out data generated under market conditions. A stronger requirement must be added to Article 13 to make assessments of economic costs transparent, and weigh them against broader societal benefits.
  • The public must have access to the methods, meeting notes, and consultations to define high value data. Article 13 must ensure that the public will be able to participate in this definition process to gather multiple viewpoints and limit the risks of biased value assessments.
  • Beyond tracking proposals for high-value datasets in the EU’s Interinstitutional Register of Delegated Acts, the public should be able to suggest new delegated acts for high-value datasets.  
  • The PSI Directive must make clear what “standard open licences” are, by referencing the Open Definition, and explicitly recommending the adoption of Open Definition compliant licences (from Creative Commons and Open Data Commons) when developing new open data policies. The directive should give preference to public domain dedication and attribution licences in accordance with the LAPSI 2.0 licensing guidelines.
  • Government of EU member states that already have policies on specific licences in use should be required to add legal compatibility tests with other open licences to these policies. We suggest to follow the recommendations outlined in the LAPSI 2.0 resources to run such compatibility tests.
  • High-value datasets must be reusable with the least restrictions possible, subject at most to requirements that preserve provenance and openness. Currently the European Commission risks to create use silos if governments will be allowed to add “any restrictions on re-use” to the use terms of high-value datasets.  
  • Publicly funded undertakings should only be able to charge marginal costs.
  • Public undertakings, publicly funded research facilities and non-executive government branches should be required to publish data referenced in the PSI Directive.

Conformant licences according to the Open Definition, opendefinition.org/licenses

Our recommendations do not pose unworkable requirements or disproportionately high administrative burden, but are essential to realise the goals of the PSI directive with regards to:
  1. Increasing the amount of public sector data available to the public for re-use,
  2. Harmonising the conditions for non-discrimination, and re-use in the European market,
  3. Ensuring fair competition and easy access to markets based on public sector information,
  4. Enhancing cross-border innovation, and an internal market where Union-wide services can be created to support the European data economy.

Our recommendations, explained: What would the proposed PSI Directive mean for the future of open data?

Publication of high-value data

The European Commission proposes to define a list of ‘high value datasets’ that shall be published under the terms of the PSI Directive. This includes to publish datasets in machine-readable formats, under standard open licences, in many cases free of charge, except when high-value datasets are collected by public undertakings in environments where free access to data would distort competition. “High value datasets” are defined as documents that bring socio-economic benefits, “notably because of their suitability for the creation of value-added services and applications, and the number of potential beneficiaries of the value-added services and applications based on these datasets”. The EC also makes reference to existing high value datasets, such as the list of key data defined by the G8 Open Data Charter. Identifying high-quality data poses at least three problems:
  1. High-value datasets may be unusable in a digital Single Market: The EC may “define other applicable modalities”, such as “any conditions for re-use”. There is a risk that a list of EU-wide high value datasets also includes use restrictions violating the Open Definition. Given that a list of high value datasets will be transposed by all member states, adding “any conditions” may significantly hinder the reusability and ability to combine datasets.
  2. Defining value of data is not straightforward. Recent papers, from Oxford University, to Open Data Watch and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data demonstrate disagreement what data’s “value” is. What counts as high value data should not only be based on quantitative indicators such as growth indicators, numbers of apps or numbers of beneficiaries, but use qualitative assessments and expert judgement from multiple disciplines.
  3. Public deliberation and participation is key to define high value data and to avoid biased value assessments. Impact assessments and cost-benefit calculations come with their own methodical biases, and can unfairly favour data with economic value at the expense of fuzzier social benefits. Currently, the PSI Directive does not consider data created under market conditions to be considered high value data if this would distort market conditions. We recommend that the PSI Directive adds a stronger requirement to weigh economic costs against societal benefits, drawing from multiple assessment methods (see point 2). The criteria, methods, and processes to determine high value must be transparent and accessible to the broader public to enable the public to negotiate benefits and to reflect the viewpoints of many stakeholders.

Expansion of scope

The new PSI Directive takes into account data from “public undertakings”. This includes services in the general interest entrusted with entities outside of the public sector, over which government maintains a high degree of control. The PSI Directive also includes data from non-executive government branches (i.e. from legislative and judiciary branches of governments), as well as data from publicly funded research. Opportunities and challenges include:
  • None of the data holders which are planned to be included in the PSI Directive are obliged to publish data. It is at their discretion to publish data. Only in case they want to publish data, they should follow the guidelines of the proposed PSI directive.
  • The PSI Directive wants to keep administrative costs low. All above mentioned data sectors are exempt from data access requests.
  • In summary, the proposed PSI Directive leaves too much space for individual choice to publish data and has no “teeth”. To accelerate the publication of general interest data, the PSI Directive should oblige data holders to publish data. Waiting several years to make the publication of this data mandatory, as happened with the first version of the PSI Directive risks to significantly hamper the availability of key data, important for the acceleration of growth in Europe’s data economy.    
  • For research data in particular, only data that is already published should fall under the new directive. Even though the PSI Directive will require member states to develop open access policies, the implementation thereof should be built upon the EU’s recommendations for open access.

Legal incompatibilities may jeopardise the Digital Single Market

Most notably, the proposed PSI Directive does not address problems around licensing which are a major impediment for Europe’s Digital Single Market. Europe’s data economy can only benefit from open data if licence terms are standardised. This allows data from different member states to be combined without legal issues, and enables to combine datasets, create cross-country applications, and spark innovation. Europe’s licensing ecosystem is a patchwork of many (possibly conflicting) terms, creating use silos and legal uncertainty. But the current proposal does not only speak vaguely about standard open licences, and makes national policies responsible to add “less restrictive terms than those outlined in the PSI Directive”. It also contradicts its aim to smoothen the digital Single Market encouraging the creation of bespoke licences, suggesting that governments may add new licence terms with regards to real-time data publication. Currently the PSI Directive would allow the European Commission to add “any conditions for re-use” to high-value datasets, thereby encouraging to create legal incompatibilities (see Article 13 (4.a)). We strongly recommend that the PSI Directive draws on the EU co-funded LAPSI 2.0 recommendations to understand licence incompatibilities and ensure a compatible open licence ecosystem.   I’d like to thank Pierre Chrzanowksi, Mika Honkanen, Susanna Ånäs, and Sander van der Waal for their thoughtful comments while writing this blogpost.   Image adapted from Max Pixel   ** Its’ official name is the Directive 2003/98/EC on the reuse of public sector information.

Europe’s proposed PSI Directive: A good baseline for future open data policies?

- June 21, 2018 in eu, licence, Open Data, Open Government Data, Open Standards, Policy, PSI, research

Some weeks ago, the European Commission proposed an update of the PSI Directive**. The PSI Directive regulates the reuse of public sector information (including administrative government data), and has important consequences for the development of Europe’s open data policies. Like every legislative proposal, the PSI Directive proposal is open for public feedback until July 13. In this blog post Open Knowledge International presents what we think are necessary improvements to make the PSI Directive fit for Europe’s Digital Single Market.    In a guest blogpost Ton Zijlstra outlined the changes to the PSI Directive. Another blog post by Ton Zijlstra and Katleen Janssen helps to understand the historical background and puts the changes into context. Whilst improvements are made, we think the current proposal is a missed opportunity, does not support the creation of a Digital Single Market and can pose risks for open data. In what follows, we recommend changes to the European Parliament and the European Council. We also discuss actions civil society may take to engage with the directive in the future, and explain the reasoning behind our recommendations.

Recommendations to improve the PSI Directive

Based on our assessment, we urge the European Parliament and the Council to amend the proposed PSI Directive to ensure the following:
  • When defining high-value datasets, the PSI Directive should not rule out data generated under market conditions. A stronger requirement must be added to Article 13 to make assessments of economic costs transparent, and weigh them against broader societal benefits.
  • The public must have access to the methods, meeting notes, and consultations to define high value data. Article 13 must ensure that the public will be able to participate in this definition process to gather multiple viewpoints and limit the risks of biased value assessments.
  • Beyond tracking proposals for high-value datasets in the EU’s Interinstitutional Register of Delegated Acts, the public should be able to suggest new delegated acts for high-value datasets.  
  • The PSI Directive must make clear what “standard open licences” are, by referencing the Open Definition, and explicitly recommending the adoption of Open Definition compliant licences (from Creative Commons and Open Data Commons) when developing new open data policies. The directive should give preference to public domain dedication and attribution licences in accordance with the LAPSI 2.0 licensing guidelines.
  • Government of EU member states that already have policies on specific licences in use should be required to add legal compatibility tests with other open licences to these policies. We suggest to follow the recommendations outlined in the LAPSI 2.0 resources to run such compatibility tests.
  • High-value datasets must be reusable with the least restrictions possible, subject at most to requirements that preserve provenance and openness. Currently the European Commission risks to create use silos if governments will be allowed to add “any restrictions on re-use” to the use terms of high-value datasets.  
  • Publicly funded undertakings should only be able to charge marginal costs.
  • Public undertakings, publicly funded research facilities and non-executive government branches should be required to publish data referenced in the PSI Directive.

Conformant licences according to the Open Definition, opendefinition.org/licenses

Our recommendations do not pose unworkable requirements or disproportionately high administrative burden, but are essential to realise the goals of the PSI directive with regards to:
  1. Increasing the amount of public sector data available to the public for re-use,
  2. Harmonising the conditions for non-discrimination, and re-use in the European market,
  3. Ensuring fair competition and easy access to markets based on public sector information,
  4. Enhancing cross-border innovation, and an internal market where Union-wide services can be created to support the European data economy.

Our recommendations, explained: What would the proposed PSI Directive mean for the future of open data?

Publication of high-value data

The European Commission proposes to define a list of ‘high value datasets’ that shall be published under the terms of the PSI Directive. This includes to publish datasets in machine-readable formats, under standard open licences, in many cases free of charge, except when high-value datasets are collected by public undertakings in environments where free access to data would distort competition. “High value datasets” are defined as documents that bring socio-economic benefits, “notably because of their suitability for the creation of value-added services and applications, and the number of potential beneficiaries of the value-added services and applications based on these datasets”. The EC also makes reference to existing high value datasets, such as the list of key data defined by the G8 Open Data Charter. Identifying high-quality data poses at least three problems:
  1. High-value datasets may be unusable in a digital Single Market: The EC may “define other applicable modalities”, such as “any conditions for re-use”. There is a risk that a list of EU-wide high value datasets also includes use restrictions violating the Open Definition. Given that a list of high value datasets will be transposed by all member states, adding “any conditions” may significantly hinder the reusability and ability to combine datasets.
  2. Defining value of data is not straightforward. Recent papers, from Oxford University, to Open Data Watch and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data demonstrate disagreement what data’s “value” is. What counts as high value data should not only be based on quantitative indicators such as growth indicators, numbers of apps or numbers of beneficiaries, but use qualitative assessments and expert judgement from multiple disciplines.
  3. Public deliberation and participation is key to define high value data and to avoid biased value assessments. Impact assessments and cost-benefit calculations come with their own methodical biases, and can unfairly favour data with economic value at the expense of fuzzier social benefits. Currently, the PSI Directive does not consider data created under market conditions to be considered high value data if this would distort market conditions. We recommend that the PSI Directive adds a stronger requirement to weigh economic costs against societal benefits, drawing from multiple assessment methods (see point 2). The criteria, methods, and processes to determine high value must be transparent and accessible to the broader public to enable the public to negotiate benefits and to reflect the viewpoints of many stakeholders.

Expansion of scope

The new PSI Directive takes into account data from “public undertakings”. This includes services in the general interest entrusted with entities outside of the public sector, over which government maintains a high degree of control. The PSI Directive also includes data from non-executive government branches (i.e. from legislative and judiciary branches of governments), as well as data from publicly funded research. Opportunities and challenges include:
  • None of the data holders which are planned to be included in the PSI Directive are obliged to publish data. It is at their discretion to publish data. Only in case they want to publish data, they should follow the guidelines of the proposed PSI directive.
  • The PSI Directive wants to keep administrative costs low. All above mentioned data sectors are exempt from data access requests.
  • In summary, the proposed PSI Directive leaves too much space for individual choice to publish data and has no “teeth”. To accelerate the publication of general interest data, the PSI Directive should oblige data holders to publish data. Waiting several years to make the publication of this data mandatory, as happened with the first version of the PSI Directive risks to significantly hamper the availability of key data, important for the acceleration of growth in Europe’s data economy.    
  • For research data in particular, only data that is already published should fall under the new directive. Even though the PSI Directive will require member states to develop open access policies, the implementation thereof should be built upon the EU’s recommendations for open access.

Legal incompatibilities may jeopardise the Digital Single Market

Most notably, the proposed PSI Directive does not address problems around licensing which are a major impediment for Europe’s Digital Single Market. Europe’s data economy can only benefit from open data if licence terms are standardised. This allows data from different member states to be combined without legal issues, and enables to combine datasets, create cross-country applications, and spark innovation. Europe’s licensing ecosystem is a patchwork of many (possibly conflicting) terms, creating use silos and legal uncertainty. But the current proposal does not only speak vaguely about standard open licences, and makes national policies responsible to add “less restrictive terms than those outlined in the PSI Directive”. It also contradicts its aim to smoothen the digital Single Market encouraging the creation of bespoke licences, suggesting that governments may add new licence terms with regards to real-time data publication. Currently the PSI Directive would allow the European Commission to add “any conditions for re-use” to high-value datasets, thereby encouraging to create legal incompatibilities (see Article 13 (4.a)). We strongly recommend that the PSI Directive draws on the EU co-funded LAPSI 2.0 recommendations to understand licence incompatibilities and ensure a compatible open licence ecosystem.   I’d like to thank Pierre Chrzanowksi, Mika Honkanen, Susanna Ånäs, and Sander van der Waal for their thoughtful comments while writing this blogpost.   Image adapted from Max Pixel   ** Its’ official name is the Directive 2003/98/EC on the reuse of public sector information.

Open Council Data of more than 100 Dutch municipalities reused in app WhereGovernment

- March 7, 2018 in netherlands, open council data, Open Data, Open Geodata, Open Government Data

This blog has been reposted from the Open State Foundation blog. More than a hundred Dutch municipalities release Open Council Data, including all documents of the municipal council – decisions, agendas, motions, amendments and policy documents – easily and collectively accessible. The data is now available for reuse in applications. Recently, the first app that reuses the data, WhereGovernment, was launched. 

Strengthen local democracy

Citizens, entrepreneurs, journalists, civil servants, journalists, scientists and all other interested parties can use Open Council Data to check easily what is going on in municipalities around a specific theme. Rural, regional, by municipality or even by neighborhood. In 2015 Open State Foundation, together with the Ministry of the Interior and five municipalities (Heerde, Oude IJsselstreek, Den Helder, Utrecht and Amstelveen), started a pilot to provide access to information as open data. In cooperation with VNG Realisatie and Argu, work was done on standardisation and upscaling. The goal is to strengthen local democracy.

Reusable local government data

The council information was already public, but only available per municipality and often not easy to find or reuse. Of 102 municipalities – including Amsterdam and Utrecht, but also smaller municipalities such as Binnenmaas and Dongen – all council documents can now be found on the Open Council Information website. These documents are available as open data: standardised and reusable. For example, app builders, websites, media and other parties can use and publish the information quickly and easily.

WhereGovernment app

To explore the possibilities of the Open Council Data, VNG Realisatie organised a competition in 2017 to develop the best app: the App Challenge Open Council Information. The first prize went to the webapp WaarOverheid of developer Qollap, which places council information on the map based on the basis of smart algorithms. This allows residents to see what is going on in their neighbourhood – or in a completely different neighbourhood. The app has been further developed with the prize money. From today – in the run-up to the municipal elections of 21 March 2018 – WaarGovernment can be used by everyone. Everything about the app WaarOverheid can be found on waaroverheid.nl.

Gold mine

Robert van Dijk, council clerk of the municipality of Teylingen and chairman of the advisory group Open Council Information, is enthusiastic about the results: ‘We can continue to talk about the theme of open government, but in order to achieve it we have to take action. The information society is a fact. Citizens can access unimaginable information via digital channels, but the government lags behind. And that while we are sitting on a huge amount of data. Society demands transparency from us, we have to get away from the back rooms. This is the instrument for that. In this way we can very effectively strengthen our democracy and make open government and open accountability possible. I see Open Council information as a gold mine. This standardisation is the starting point for upcoming projects and apps. If all municipalities join in later, nobody will have to use information from 380 islands to know which trends are going on. In short: a wonderful project.’ Open Council Information is part of the Digital Agenda 2020 and the Open Government Action Plan of the Netherlands (action point 6) with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) in association with Open State Foundation, the driver of the Open Council Information project, and various local authorities and the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations.  

Open Council Data of more than 100 Dutch municipalities reused in app WhereGovernment

- March 7, 2018 in netherlands, open council data, Open Data, Open Geodata, Open Government Data

This blog has been reposted from the Open State Foundation blog. More than a hundred Dutch municipalities release Open Council Data, including all documents of the municipal council – decisions, agendas, motions, amendments and policy documents – easily and collectively accessible. The data is now available for reuse in applications. Recently, the first app that reuses the data, WhereGovernment, was launched. 

Strengthen local democracy

Citizens, entrepreneurs, journalists, civil servants, journalists, scientists and all other interested parties can use Open Council Data to check easily what is going on in municipalities around a specific theme. Rural, regional, by municipality or even by neighborhood. In 2015 Open State Foundation, together with the Ministry of the Interior and five municipalities (Heerde, Oude IJsselstreek, Den Helder, Utrecht and Amstelveen), started a pilot to provide access to information as open data. In cooperation with VNG Realisatie and Argu, work was done on standardisation and upscaling. The goal is to strengthen local democracy.

Reusable local government data

The council information was already public, but only available per municipality and often not easy to find or reuse. Of 102 municipalities – including Amsterdam and Utrecht, but also smaller municipalities such as Binnenmaas and Dongen – all council documents can now be found on the Open Council Information website. These documents are available as open data: standardised and reusable. For example, app builders, websites, media and other parties can use and publish the information quickly and easily.

WhereGovernment app

To explore the possibilities of the Open Council Data, VNG Realisatie organised a competition in 2017 to develop the best app: the App Challenge Open Council Information. The first prize went to the webapp WaarOverheid of developer Qollap, which places council information on the map based on the basis of smart algorithms. This allows residents to see what is going on in their neighbourhood – or in a completely different neighbourhood. The app has been further developed with the prize money. From today – in the run-up to the municipal elections of 21 March 2018 – WaarGovernment can be used by everyone. Everything about the app WaarOverheid can be found on waaroverheid.nl.

Gold mine

Robert van Dijk, council clerk of the municipality of Teylingen and chairman of the advisory group Open Council Information, is enthusiastic about the results: ‘We can continue to talk about the theme of open government, but in order to achieve it we have to take action. The information society is a fact. Citizens can access unimaginable information via digital channels, but the government lags behind. And that while we are sitting on a huge amount of data. Society demands transparency from us, we have to get away from the back rooms. This is the instrument for that. In this way we can very effectively strengthen our democracy and make open government and open accountability possible. I see Open Council information as a gold mine. This standardisation is the starting point for upcoming projects and apps. If all municipalities join in later, nobody will have to use information from 380 islands to know which trends are going on. In short: a wonderful project.’ Open Council Information is part of the Digital Agenda 2020 and the Open Government Action Plan of the Netherlands (action point 6) with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) in association with Open State Foundation, the driver of the Open Council Information project, and various local authorities and the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations.  

The future of the Global Open Data Index: assessing the possibilities

- November 1, 2017 in Global Open Data Index, godi, GODI16, Open Government Data, open-government

In the last couple of months we have received questions regarding the status of the new Global Open Data Index (GODI) from a few members of our Network. This blogpost is to update everyone on the status of GODI and what comes next. But first, some context: GODI is one of the biggest assessments of the state of open government data globally, alongside the Web Foundation’s Open Data Barometer. We notice persistent obstacles for open data year-by-year. High-income countries regularly secure top rankings, yet overall there is little to no development in many countries. As our latest State Of Open Government Data in 2017 report shows, data is often not made available publicly at all. If so, we see many issues around findability, quality, processability, and licensing. Individual countries are notable exceptions to the rule. The Open Data Barometer made similar observations in its latest report, mentioning a slow uptake of policy, as well as persistent data quality issues in countries that provide open data. So there is still a lot of work to be done. To resolve issues like engagement with our community, we started to explore alternative paths for GODI. This includes a shift in focus from a mere measurement tool to a stronger conversational device between our user groups throughout the process. We understand that we need to speak to new audiences and focus on measurement as a tool in real world applications. We need to focus more on this. We want to understand the use cases of the Open Data Survey (the tool that powers GODI and the Open Data Census) in different contexts and with different goals. We have barely seen a few of the possible uses of the tool in the open data sphere and we want to see even more. In order to learn more about how GODI is taken up by different user groups, we are also currently exploring GODI’s effects on open data policy and publication. We wish to understand more systematically how individual elements of the GODI interface (such as country ranking, dataset results, discuss forum entries) help mobilising support for open data among different user groups. Our goal is to understand how to improve our survey design and workflow so that they more directly support action around open data policy and publication. In addition we are developing a new vision for the Open Data Index to either measure open data on a regional and city-level or by topical areas. We will elaborate on this vision in a follow-up blogpost soon. Taking this all into account, we have decided to focus on working on the aforementioned use cases and a regional Index during 2018. In the meantime, we will still work with our community to define a vision that will make GODI a sustainable measurement tool: we understand that tracking the changes in government data publication is crucial for the activists and governments themselves. We know that progress around open data is slower than we would like it to be, but therefore we need to ensure that discussions around open data do not end. Please do not hesitate to submit new discussions around country entries on our forum or reach out to us if you have any ideas on how to take GODI forwards and improve. If you’re running an Open Data Census, we we’ll continue giving you support in the measurement you’re currently working on, whether it’s local, regional or you have any new idea of a Census you’d like to try. If you want to run your own Census, you can request it here, or send an email to index@okfn.org to see how we could collaborate further.

Kiista eduskunnan vierailijatiedoista kirvoitti Lobbaus läpinäkyväksi -kansalaisaloitteen

- October 14, 2017 in avoimuus, avoimuusrekisteri, avoin eduskunta, citizen initiative, demokratia, eduskunta, Featured, Freedom of Information, kansalaisaloite, lobbarirekisteri, lobbaus, lobbaus läpinäkyväksi, lobbausrekisteri, lobby registry, Nofications, Open Democracy, Open Government Data, parliament, projects, riksdagen, vaikuttaminen, vierailijatiedot

Tiedote. Julkaistu: 13.10.2017, 09:00

Open Knowledge Finland ry

Kansalaisjärjestöt Open Knowledge Finland, Avoin ministeriö ja Transparency Finland käynnistävät kansalaisaloitteen, joka loisi ensimmäistä kertaa lobbausrekisterin Suomeen. Lobbaus läpinäkyväksi -aloite tähtää kansanedustajien työn avoimuuden lisäämiseen eduskunnan työjärjestystä muuttamalla. (Suora linkki allekirjoitukseen>> Kansalaisaloite loisi yhteiset käytännöt kansanedustajien sidosryhmätapaamisten julkistamiseen, mutta suojaisi tavallisten kansalaisten yksityisyyden. “Vaikuttamistyö eli lobbaaminen kuuluu demokratiaan, mutta salailu ei ole nykypäivää. Esimerkiksi tuorein eduskunnan kansliatoimikunnan päätös säilyttää vierailijatiedot yhden päivän ajan on aivan riittämätön”, sanoo Open Knowledge Finlandin toiminnanjohtaja Teemu Ropponen. Lobbausrekisterissä ilmoitettaisiin kansanedustajien kaikki tapaamiset ja tiedot kuten osallistuneiden nimet, taustayhteisöt ja toimeksiantajat. Myös tapaamiseen liittyvä aineisto tulisi julkiseksi. Lisäksi jo olemassa oleva kansanedustajien sidonnaisuusrekisteri sekä valtiopäiväasiakirjat olisivat saatavilla kansalaisille avoimena tietona. “Eduskunnan pitäisi maamme ylintä valtaa käyttävänä tahona näyttää avoimuudessa esimerkkiä muulle julkishallinnolle. Aloitteemme on askel kattavampaan muutokseen. Uskomme lobbausrekisterin lisäävän luottamusta poliittisen järjestelmän ja tukevan laajempaa osallistumista päätöksiin”, toteaa puheenjohtaja Joonas Pekkanen Avoimesta ministeriöstä. Tutkimus osoittaa avoimuuden tarpeen Open Knowledge Finland tutki eduskunnan vierailijatietoja yhteensä 24 500 vierailusta 11 kuukauden ajalta vuoden 2016 toukokuusta vuoden 2017 huhtikuuhun. Tutkimuksen otoksessa elinkeinoelämän etujärjestöjen eduskuntavierailuista noin kolme neljäsosaa on kytköksissä hallituspuolueisiin. Muiden etujärjestöjen edustajat tapaavat useimmin oppositiota ja käyvät eduskunnassa harvemmin. “Eduskunnan vierailijatiedot antavat vaillinaisen mutta kiinnostavan näkökulman lobbaukseen, josta on tällä hetkellä vähän julkista tietoa saatavilla. Eduskunta julkaisee listat valiokunnissa kuulluista henkilöistä, mutta vaikuttamisen painopiste on selvästi muualla”, sanoo Aleksi Knuutila, Open Knowledge Finlandin tutkija. Esimerkiksi vuonna 2014 valiokunnissa kuultiin noin 6 600 asiantuntijaa. Muut vierailut päättäjien luona ovat kuitenkin huomattavasti yleisempiä. Tutkimuksen perusteella kansanedustajien sekä heidän avustajiensa tapaavat vuosittain eduskunnassa noin 14 400 vierailijaa. —

Open Knowledge Finland on rekisteröity voittoa tavoittelematon yhdistys, joka on osa suurempaa kansainvälistä Open Knowledge -verkostoa. Sen tarkoituksena on edistää avointa dataa, tiedon julkisuusperiaatteen toteutumista sekä avointa yhteiskuntaa Suomessa.

Lisätietoja:

Teemu Ropponen, toiminnanjohtaja, Open Knowledge Finland, 040 5255153, teemu.ropponen@okf.fi Joonas Pekkanen, puheenjohtaja, Avoin ministeriö, 050 5846800, joonas.pekkanen@avoinministerio.fi

 

www.lobbauslapinakyvaksi.fi FB: www.facebook.com/LobbausLapinakyvaksi Twitter: @LobbausAloite

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