Notes on the status of Open Data in several European states

(this page is part of my Open Data, Open Society report. Please follow that link to reach the introduction and Table of Content, but don’t forget to check the notes to readers!)

Austria

In Austria (in April 2010) there have been heated debates around opening up databases from public bodies (e.g. for farm subsidies): “The European PSI directive from 2003 was implemented into national law as the IWG or Informationsweiterverwendungsgesetz, but a number of public bodies have violated the (actually very weak!) law by not responding to inquiries. A company providing high quality business data was even sued by the republic for collecting and using data from public databases (OGH decrees 4Ob11/07g, 4Ob35/09i, etc.). Many public bodies (don’t even know) what’s inside in their data silos, some of them collect equal data twice, and most of them are afraid of sharing anything.”

Finland

According to a July 2010 report on Open Data in Finland “The general atmosphere for opening PSI is positive in Finland. Most activity in this area is connected to the implementation of the Infrastructure for Spatial Information (INSPIRE) Directive 2007/2/EC. The discussion has become more coherent and it is starting to reach (besides the civil society and the private sector) also the top level decision makers… However, progress in identifying PSI resources, opening new datasets and promoting re-use is still rather slow in Finland. A number of laws, directives and recommendations apply, from freedom of information (FOI) and the act on the criteria for charging for public sector goods and services to international recommendations and competition law. Unfortunately, while none of these laws explicitly prevents opening up and re-using of government data, current interpretation and practice doesn’t support it either.”

According to the same report, the PSI directive 2003/98/EC had minimal effect in Finland because in 2005 a working group under the Ministry of Finance came to the conclusion that the existing national legislation in Finland already met the framework set out in the Directive.

France

The situation in France is under development and changing quickly due to many influences. By the end of 2010, a data.gov style portal should be implemented by the French Government. There is increasing awareness by the public sector and community of the economic, political and social value of PSI.

The European PSI Directive 2003/98/EC was implemented into French law by texts very similar to the Directive: ordnance June 6th 2005 and decree December 30th 2005. On May 29th 2006, the Prime Minister’s circular noted the obligations of this new law which specified the aims as economic development: the nomination of public representatives responsible for the re-use of public information, the setting up of repositories ensuring the availability of key public sector information, the definition of standard licenses, and the analysis of licenses with exclusive rights.

APIE (the Agency for Public Intangibles of France) is working on the planning and implementation of a French PSI government data portal. Associations of citizens and non profit organizations such as Regards Citoyens and LiberTic are actively involved in open data discussions.

On the legal front, some open Licenses are available on the websites of the main French public government data producers:

Germany

Germany implemented the PSI Directive in December 2006 with a Federal law (IWG) which has effect upon Federal authorities, Federal State authorities and municipal bodies alike. Daniel Dietrich, Chairman of the Open Data Network, reported in April 2010 that the Network, a non-profit organization founded in September 2009 to promote open data, open government, transparency and citizen participation gained a lot of attention and positive feedback but the country seemed still far away from “data.gov.de” (that is having a national online portal and policy for Open Data), since local political situation, administrative structures and legislation are very different compared to the UK or the US. For example, he wrote, there is no central Office of Public Sector Information and an “Information Asset Register” simply does not exist.

A July 2010 assessment of the European and national regulatory framework impacting PSI re-use in Germany pointed out that one of the challenges for PSI re-use in Germany is to find out who has the legal competence to open up the data, since Germany is a Federation comprising 16 Federal States with great autonomy in generating, managing and publishing PSI. Data protection legislation can also close doors by being a ground upon which information requests are denied.