Practically all the real-world examples presented in these pages confirm a few general facts and principles of Open PSI. One is that what is really useful are the relations between different, apparently unrelated types of PSI generated by independent public bodies. Another fact is that ,in practice, such relations are almost always found, analyzed and made available by third parties. Today it is very hard to make sure that PSI is regularly published, up to date and reliably. However, once these conditions are guaranteed, almost always somebody will use the data.
It also seems that geographical PSI is the most important PSI, at least for the general public, or as the first one that should be completely opened. The reason is that such PSI adds context and relevance to all other types of PSI for everybody, not just specialists, in what is probably the easiest and most effective way: showing where some PSI exists or has tangible impacts on everyday life.
Coordination in PSI production and management between citizens and Public Administrations will (have to) become more and more important. Working together through the Internet, citizens can do a lot to create from scratch, digitize, validate and index PSI. In many cases, they are already doing it for free, from OpenStreetMap to digitizing election leaflets or other non-electronic documents. Such efforts should be explicitly and officially encouraged and supported as much as possible by Public Administrations, for at least two reasons. The first is to have extra data sets of great public interests created for free or almost for free by volunteers, that is at the smallest possible cost for taxpayers. The second is to increase the legal and economic value to such data by validating them: the usefulness of many kinds of PSI (starting with geographical data) is maximized only when its quality and reliability are officially confirmed by a Public Administration. Such activities, however, are practically and legally possible in cheap and efficient manners only if all the PSI generated in this way is be raw, open and linked from the beginning.
Finally, the hardest problem may be to get enough citizens to use the open PSI made available online, on a regular basis, especially when taking decisions on political matters. Making raw PSI open can be enough if all one is looking for is more stimuli for economic activities, not when the rationale for open data is transparency in politics and active democracy. This is an issue that deserves both more study and specific educational initiatives targeting all citizens.
The “Open Data, Open Society” research project will continue with an online survey that will attempt to asses s how many types of raw PSI are already released, in which formats and under which licenses, by the city and regional administration of the EU-15 countries. A final report will summarize and comment t he results of the survey. For more information please contact: