Europe Needs to Get Serious About Open Data

Europe’s public sectors are sitting on a huge untapped resource of data, writes Paul MacDonnell in EurActiv. However, most European countries have yet to take this opportunity seriously. They should do so because data can transform how governments work and deliver services, can help citizens to hold legislators and public officials to account, and can allow innovators to develop services and solutions that bring widespread economic and social benefits. Most EU countries have signed on to the Open Government Declaration, a global open data initiative. This, however, is focused on transparency and overlooks the significant commercial and efficiency payoff that a broader and deeper commitment to open data could deliver for Europe. A better model is the G8 Open Data Charter, which, as well as supporting the release of data to promote transparency, is more explicit about the quality and format in which data should be released and, importantly, adds innovation as a reason to release data. The four EU members of the G8 (now G7)—France, Germany, Italy, and the UK—have signed up to the charter, and even the EU has endorsed the G8 Open Data Charter for its own institutions. All other European countries should make the same pledge. Such an initiative should be endorsed by the European Council, the European Commission, and the European Parliament, as well as Member States.