EC unveils Europe-wide Open Data Strategy

The European Commission wants more cost-effective, easier access to public data.

data protection

The European Commission yesterday unveiled legislation designed to open up access to public sector data, in a move that could prove valuable to developers of smartphone applications such as maps or restaurant finders.

We are sending a strong signal to administrations today. Your data is worth more if you give it away. So start releasing it now...

If approved, the law could generate an additional 40 billion in economic activity in the EU each year, according to the commission, which claims public administrators across Europe are sitting on a 'goldmine of unrealised economic potential." For example, transport and construction companies may benefit from easier access to weather information and geographical data could be tailored for smartphones.

"We are sending a strong signal to administrations today. Your data is worth more if you give it away. So start releasing it now: use this framework to join the other smart leaders who are already gaining from embracing open data," said Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner for digital technology policy.

"Taxpayers have already paid for this information, the least we can do is give it back to those who want to use it in new ways that help people and create jobs and growth."

The draft law states that the price of access to public information should be no more than the cost of releasing and reproducing that data. It aims to standardize rules governing access to public data by individuals and companies across the 27-nation bloc and may be in place by 2013.

France and Britain have policies on access to public information that could be used as a model, the Commission said.

The new law - an update to the 2003 Directive relating to the re-use of public sector information - won't change legal protection on personal and intellectual property rights data. However, in addition to other key changes, it will also bring about the creation of a new data portal that will make the commission's own information - spanning EU institutions, bodies agencies and national authorities - publicly available.

This new portal is currently being developed and tested and is expected to launch in the spring of 2012.

(Additional reporting by IT Pro)

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