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From PSI to open data – LAPSI is ready for a new round of legal questions

- June 10, 2013 in Open Government Data, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

In February, 23 partners kicked off the LAPSI 2.0 thematic network on the legal aspects of public sector information in Leuven, Belgium. The network, consisting of academic institutions and stakeholders from 15 countries, will continue where the previous LAPSI network left off, and look at the remaining legal barriers hindering the full and open availability of public sector information in Europe. The network will enable knowledge exchange between stakeholders; showcase good practice on how Member States and public bodies deal with PSI issues; and provide policy recommendations on how the European legal framework can support open data. This European legal framework is currently being challenged by the emerging open data ecosystem. PSI is gradually being replaced by open data in people’s minds, throwing up a lot of new questions. For instance, over the years, many efforts have been made by national policy makers and public authorities to create more transparency in licensing procedures and to develop standard licences (although more transparency would still be very welcome!). However, this has led – somewhat counter-productively – to a proliferation of licence models, even among the open licences. Therefore, the LAPSI 2.0 network is focusing its attention in the first year of activities on the ‘legal interoperability’ of licences. What strategies can help to prevent conflicting (open) standardised licensing models from arising, and how can existing problems due to a lack of interoperability be addressed? Another layer of complication with licenses comes from the shift from the provision of data via bulk downloads to the creation of web services, requiring the combination of a data approach with what is traditionally known as terms of service or service level agreements. Moreover, the one-source, one-way delivery of information from the public sector to the users is increasingly being replaced by participatory data sharing, the introduction of feedback loops and the integration of PSI with user generated content. It is questionable if the current legal framework is ready for this. The LAPSI 2.0 network will also be working hard to embed PSI and open data in the institutional culture of the public sector, and – if this does not work – on the enforcement of the rules on PSI and open data through efficient and effective redress mechanisms. While many public bodies have embraced open data, there are still many more that need to be convinced about the benefits for economic growth, participation and accountability. Whatever LAPSI 2.0 recommends, it will have to function against the background of the new Directive on re-use of PSI, which is due this summer. While the new directive is definitely a step in the right direction, its exact impact can currently only be guessed at by the rumours that are seeping through about the trialogue process. We anxiously await the final version of the directive, and look forward to playing a role in the translation of the text into Member States’ domestic law. Over the next two years, LAPSI 2.0, in cooperation with other projects and initiatives, will organise two conferences and a number of workshops on the legal aspects of PSI and open data. Our first conference is already planned: on October 24th, we hope to see you in Ljubljana for a great day on “The new PSI directive: what’s next?”. We are also planning workshops at the Samos Summit in July and you can find us at all the important open data events, including the OKCon in Geneva. If you are interested in knowing more about the network and our activities, check out our website or register for the stakeholders newsletter.

European Union launches CKAN data portal

- February 25, 2013 in ckan, Open Data, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

On Friday, to coincide with Saturday’s International Open Data Day, the European Commission (EC) unveiled a new data portal, which will be used to publish data from the EC and other bodies of the European Union. This major project was announced last year, and it went live in December for testing before today’s announcement. The portal includes extensive CKAN customisation and development work by the Open Knowledge Foundation, including a multilingual extension enabling data descriptions (metadata) to be made available in different languages: at present the metadata is offered in English, French, German, Italian and Polish. The portal was originally planned for EC data, but it will now also hold data from the European Environment Agency, and hopefully in time a number of other EU bodies as well. The EU has been a key mover in driving the Open Data agenda in member states, so it is fitting that it is now promoting transparency and re-use of its own data holdings by making them available in one place. It has for some years been encouraging member states to publish data via dedicated portals, and it also supports the OKF’s work on, a prototype of a pan-European data portal harvesting data from catalogues across the Union, via the LOD2 research project. The portal currently makes 5,885 datasets available, most of which come from Eurostat. In their blog post announcing the launch the European Commission say they are “confident that it will be a catalyst for change in the way data is handled inside the Commission as well as beyond”, and promise more to come:
More data will become available as the Commission’s services adapt their data management and licensing policies and make machine-readable formats the rule. Our ambition is to make an open licence applicable across the board for all datasets in the portal. Furthermore, in 2013, an overarching pan-European aggregator for open data should federate the content of more than 70 existing open data portal initiatives in the Member States at national, regional or local level.
We’re looking forward to helping make it happen.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes praises work of Open Knowledge Foundation Greece

- February 21, 2013 in OKF Greece, OKFN Local, Open Government Data, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

Great News! Neelie Kroes, the Vice President of the European Commission, has sent her personal best wishes to the OKF team in Greece who launched their brand new open data portal last week! She said:
“Open data is a very powerful lever for both a better economy and society. Open data is fuel for innovation, it is a tool for transparency, for better government and policy. At a time when many Greeks are looking for new sources of inspiration and hope, I am pleased to say that the Open Knowledge Foundation is one of those sources. I encourage all public bodies to support this effort. Whether the task is finding a job or spending tax money wisely, open data can help.”
Here, here!

ePSI Open Data Days, Warsaw, February 21-23

- January 22, 2013 in Events, Open Government Data, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

The ePSI platform team have announced “three days of open data fun” in Warsaw next month. The big day is the 2013 ePSI platform conference on 22nd February, but you’re also all invited to a workshop on the 21st, and a hackday on the 23rd!

At a glance

  • What?: ePSI conference, workshop and hackday
  • When?: 21st-23nd February
  • Where?: Warsaw University, Warsaw, Poland
  • Programme: in development here
  • Register: here for the workshop and here for the main conference. And it’s Free (but places are limited)!
The conference will focus on the theme “Gotcha! – getting everyone on board”. PSI re-use is in the process of reaching a certain degree of maturity and uptake. However, this uptake differs significantly between Member States, PSI domains and stakeholders. The ePSIplatform Conference will therefore be aimed at those that should embark, but have (partly) failed to do so far. Meanwhile in the workshop we’ll be looking at the value of open data to the public sector itself. The workshop is especially aimed at those who work in the public sector. And on the 23rd, the hackday will coincide with International Open Data Day, so you’re invited to join the Warsaw open data community for a day of building apps, cleaning up data, or building better connections to data holders. This will take place at Centrum Cyfrowe. Find out more on the Open Data Day in Warsaw here. Get all the info on the Conference Page or download the Conference Infopack here. We look forward to seeing you there!

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

- December 3, 2012 in Access to Information, Campaigning, Europe, Open Data, open formats, Open Government Data, Open Standards, Open/Closed, Policy, PSI, Regards Citoyens, 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
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

COMMUNIA statement on open access to EU funded Horizon 2020 research

- November 22, 2012 in COMMUNIA, Open Access, Policy, Public Domain, WG EU Open Data

Horizon 2020 is the EU’s proposed new programme for research and innovation, which would run from 2014 to 2020. The programme would create an “Innovation Union” with a budget of €80million, bringing together current research and innovation funding available through a number of sources. On 28th November MEPs are set to vote on the proposals, which involve 6 different pieces of legislation. It is clear that the EC’s aim of “breaking down barriers to create a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation” can only be met through bold steps towards open access. The COMMUNIA Association (of which the OKFN is a member) has published a policy paper entitled “Position on EC Horizon 2020 Open Access policy” in the run-up to this month’s vote, which will be circulated among MEPs. The paper is based around two of the policy recommendations produced by members of the network. The core principles are that:
  • All publicly funded research outputs and educational resources must be made available as open access materials (aligned with the Budapest Open Access Initiative).
  • Notwithstanding the need to support OA policies, access to copyright protected material for education and research purposes must be improved by strengthening existing exceptions and limitations to copyright, and broadening these exceptions to cover uses outside of formal educational and research institutions.
Based on this, COMMUNIA recommends a clear tripartite Open Access policy to be included in the Horizon 2020 plans:
  • An Open Access mandate for all publicly funded research, in line with the BOAI. This would require the use of CC-BY, CC0 or similar licensing, and should be backed up by sanctions.
  • The elimination of sui generis rights on databases, which have not demonstrated any value since their 1996 introduction.
  • Prohibition on publishing agreements which prevent authors from archiving their research in OA repositories, or ban authors bound by an institutional OA mandate.
We hope that MEPs will take note of these recommendations when it comes to voting on the proposals next week. The full policy paper is available as a PDF, and on the Communia website. If you’re interested in discussing open access policy at the Open Knowledge Foundation, you can join our open-access mailing list.

Amendments Liberated: new features for Parltrack

- October 1, 2012 in Featured Project, Open Government Data, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

The following guest post is by Stef. The European Parliament is one of the most notoriously impenetrable institutions that governs our lives. Shining a light into the murky corridors of Brussels and Strasbourg becomes increasingly vital as the reach of the Parliament grows. Opening up the EU to greater citizen scrutiny will help to improve understanding, participation, and democratic legitimary. Parltrack is one of a number of initiatives seeking to make different aspects of the European Union more digestible, in this case focussing on the legislative process. Parltrack is a website that republishes detailed information of the European law-making process. It combines dossiers, MEPs, vote results and committee agendas into a unique database and allows the tracking of dossiers using email and RSS. Some of the data – like results of votes – comes from hard-to-process PDF documents. Recently two projects – the European Parliament’s own AT4AM and the German bundesgit – showed the need to have access to the amendments to legislative proposals in an easier to use format. Parltrack now offers this information. The newly added data allows Parltrack to display all the amendments a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has made in the current parliamentiary term. Such a listing was unavailable to the public until now. Similarly new is the listing of all amendments for a certain law propsoal. Surprisingly, the new feature most warmly welcomed by Parltrack’s users is the ability to send direct links to amendments. This not only allows more direct discussion of the text, but also tweeting. Parltrack also offers tracking of events concerning any legislative proposal. Users can sign up to get notifications if a proposal is scheduled on a committee, or if amendments are attached to it. It’s important to note that this data contains errors. Current estimates are around 1%, which come from the fact that the PDFs sometimes themselves contain spelling and formatting errors – in one case the English version contains French text. So this is an informational source – anything serious should be cross-checked with the source PDF which is always linked. Parltrack currently contains 171612 amendments starting from 14th of July, 2009. Included in this are 976 amended dossiers, and 775 amending MEPs. Some more statistics on the data: Top 3 most amending MEPS:
  1. Olle SCHMIDT: 2038 amendments
  2. Philippe LAMBERTS: 1974 amendments
  3. Silvia-Adriana ŢICĂU: 1610 amendments
Top 3 dossiers with the most amendments:
  1. 3075: Structural instruments: common provisions for ERDF, ESF, Cohesion Fund, EAFRD and EMFF; general provisions applicable to ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund (2011/0276(COD))
  2. 2482: Common Fisheries Policy (2011/0195(COD))
  3. 2310: Public procurement (2011/0438(COD))
Come and check it out!

Visualising Europe’s Languages

- September 26, 2012 in Featured, Featured Project, Open Data, WG EU Open Data, Working Groups

Jonathan Van Parys of Where’s My Villo? fame got in touch to tell us about a nice little mini-project he’s just launched to coincide with the European Day of Languages, which is today:
Launching on the 2012 European Day of Languages, is a new website that visualizes language knowledge in Europe based on the latest European Commisson survey data, published this summer in the “Europeans and their languages” Eurobarometer. The interactive website allows visitors to find out which languages are most widely known in Europe, by country, age groups, and see the split between native speakers and people who learnt the language later in life. Visitors can also pick any language to see in which countries that language is most popular. Here are a few interesting insights:
  • German, English and Italian are the largest mother-tongues in Europe.
  • English, French and German are the largest foreign languages in Europe.
  • Italy, Spain, Czech Republic and Hungary are the countries where young people speak the least English.
  • Some 41% of young people in Europe speak English, and 21% speak German and French.
  • Zoom in on older people, and those figures are 25%, 23% and 18% respectively.
  • The top foreign languages in Poland, where the bulk of the European Day of Languages festivities are taking place, are English, German and Russian. If you zoom in on older people, the order is reversed to Russian, German and English.
  • Outside of Poland, the countries with the largest shares of Polish speakers are Lithuania, Ireland and Germany.
  • There are three countries in Europe where Russian is known by more than 40% of the population: the 3 Baltic States.
Choose any country or language on to discover language knowledge statistics for your own place of living or mother-tongue.

Call for research proposals: open data in developing countries

- August 10, 2012 in Open Data, Open Government Data, WG Development, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

The Web Foundation and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) are looking to fund case study research on the emerging impacts of open data in developing countries. Open data policies are spreading across the world: but how does open data play out on the ground in different settings? What is needed for the potential transparency and accountability, innovation and enterprise, and social inclusion benefits of open data to be realised? How are different actors using open data to support good governance, better decision making, and better development outcomes? Those are just a few of the questions that were explored at the ‘Critical Development Perspectives on Open Government Data’ workshop held in Brasilia just before the 2012 Open Government Partnership conference this April, where the Open Data Research network was initially established. Building on that workshop, the Web Foundation and IDRC call is looking for researchers and research institutions based in the global south to develop detailed case studies of where open data is interacting with different governance and development issues – from setting and monitoring budgets, to developing smart city infrastructures, or improving the use of funds for agricultural improvement. Selected cases will form part of a research network over 2013, coming together to look at cross cutting themes highlighted by the different case studies. The project will fund a series of detailed case studies that examine the emerging impacts of specific on-going open data initiatives that address key development themes. Potential cases include:
  • Open data in local and national budgeting processes
  • Open data for legislation processes and elections
  • Open data in judicial systems
  • Open data for smarter cities
  • Open data for the delivery of privately provided public services
  • Open data for the regulation of markets (e.g. extractive industries)
  • Open data for the welfare and empowerment of marginalized groups and communities (e.g. data for small farmers)
  • Open data and international development
Funding of between USD$25,000 and USD$75,000 per case is available, and the application deadline is 10th September. Find the full call and more details at

Open Media Challenge, September, Bucharest

- July 5, 2012 in Data Journalism, Events, External, Sprint / Hackday, WG EU Open Data

The Open Media Challenge (OMC) is a two-day event, laying the groundwork for improving data journalism in Eastern Europe. The aim is to write code for free software which will solve real-world media problems around data aggregation and visualization. It will be a collaborative effort focused on Eastern European information collection and dissemination, and will be conducted in English language. Coders, Designers, Journalists and Activists who want to team up and play with data on a specific issue, can submit their proposal using our submit form. The call for proposal starts today and is open until 14th of July. The main event will take place in Mid September in Bucharest – more details coming soon. It’s going to include an Open Hackday, as well as Code Review, International e-Jury and Celebration day. Check out next steps, proposal list, and other event-related news, on the FAQ page. The event is funded by Knight-Mozilla Open News, and was initiated by the Sponge Media Innovation Lab for Eastern Europe. The organizers are CRJI,, Ceata, ROSEdu and ApTI. Hope to see you there!