Who is leading Open Data in Europe? Walking the Open Data talk
Capgemini Consulting’s Wendy Carrara, project manager for the European Data Portal, discusses the UK’s open data readiness, including ways it could learn from its neighbours and even improve on its open data policy
Open data – that is, publicly available data that’s free for all to use – is set to have a monumental impact on societies in the next five years. Whether it’s information regarding public transportation, citypolicy or city infrastructures, open data enables public sector bodies, business and citizens alike to make more informed decisions about the things that really matter. While it may sound like a popular buzzword from years gone by, governments across the globe are now developing policies that encourage the release of open government data. However, having policy in place is a far cry from actually getting it done.
In November 2015, however, Europe launched the European Data Portal in a bid to drill down into the details of what’s happening in countries across the continent. The data portal facilitates a continuous flow of information across European countries, and is a means to share best practice, and helpcountries learn from one another.
With 12 months passed since the portal’s launch, Capgemini carried out a study into the state of open data in Europe, which revealed that the countries that are publishing more information on it are already expecting a higher social, economic and political benefit to citizens. Germany’s Open Government Data project, for example, created 20,000 jobs in 2016, and it’s predicted that by 2020,the overall European open data market size will increase significantly to a value of €75.7 billion. It’s clear to see – there’s a raft of advantages to reap from walking the open data talk.
The UK leads the way when it comes to open data initiatives, and is ranked #1 in the Open Data Barometer Rank and second in the Open Data Index . But why, specifically, is the UK a trend setter in Europe? And what can European countries do to keep pace?
Open data readiness
One of the reasons the UK is performing well is due to its ‘Open Data Readiness’, which is the policy framework that underpins the release of open data. This includes having national guidelines that are applicable to sub-national or specific sectors, and these guiding principles ensure a smooth roll-out of open data that can benefit anyone that wishes to access it.
When it comes to open data readiness, the UK provides guidelines on data publishing as part of the Government’s Digital Service Standard. A number of regional or city initiatives are integrated into the data.gov.uk portal, too, such as Open Manchester, Leeds Data Mill, Birmingham Open Data, Bristol City Council Open Data, to mention just a few.
There are also guidelines in place for licensing, and the UK Government Licensing Framework (UKGLF) provides a policy and legal framework for licensing the use and re-use of public sector information across the public sector. This in turn makes for a much more efficient roll-out of open data as a whole.
One remarkable feature ofthe UK’s data portal, is that it sends automated reminders for datasets– this predefined approach ensures that data sets are always kept up to date, and is a feature that is a best practice throughout Europe.
More than eight events are held annually, too, that look into open data policy and help to maintain awareness for the importance of the open data initiative. These practices combined have resulted in 35,976 data sets being publically available in the UK, and 162,500 people access the portal every month.
While the report revealed that 68% of the countries in Europe have a dedicated open data policy in place, there’s still work to be done. For the countries hoping to edge their way up the open data rankings, following in the UK’s footsteps when it comes to open data guidelines would be a good place to start.
Open data portal maturity
Open data portal maturity is another indicator of open data success. This spans the sophistication of portal features, the different formats data is made available in, machine readability, and user monitoring. Rather than releasing big chunks of data, countries are increasingly moving towards curating data first, improving the quality of the metadata and how it can be categorised, and ensuring a data infrastructure is in place.
The UK has been successful in its focus to improve data quality in line with this, and offers better, more reliable open data both to users beyond government and for consumption within government. The UK government Open Standards Board has adopted several open standards for data, too, such as files in ODT, ODS and CSV formats. This guarantees the interoperability of data sets and is an important step towards full machine readability.
By improving the quality of the data, and ensuring interoperability within different data sets, the UK’s data portal is accessible to all, and allows as many people as possible to make the most of the data available.
To the future of open data
Of course, there are ways that the UK could improve upon its open data policy, and it can learn from its neighbours across the channel. The French Portal , for example, includes sections dedicated to news around open data and the promotion of open data based applications and services. If the UK were to implement this, its portal maturity would further be increased.
What’s more, the UK open data portal could improve its efforts to focus more on analysing the open data sets that have political, societal, economic and environmental impact. By identifying the priority datasets that people want to access most, the UK’s data portal would provide even more value for its users.
It’s expected that we’ll receive the full benefits of open data maturity in 2020. In the same sense that open data encourages countries to look to one another to improve best practice in the public sector, so too can they share ideas on how to improve their open data procedures. By looking to one another, the overall open data ecosystem across Europe will reach its full potential by then, so that every single citizen can feel the benefit.
For the full results of the study on Open Data Maturity please visit: http://www.europeandataportal.eu/en/dashboard
Capgemini Consulting’s Wendy Carrara is project manager for the European Data Portal