Notes on the status of Open Data in several European states, part 2

(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!)


According to H. Gislason, the first examples of Open PSI in Iceland date to the late 1990s, when the government office Statistics Iceland concluded that their work was more valuable if openly accessible by anybody via the Internet than keeping selling access to their individual publications. This change was a success: “today many Icelanders, from students to businessmen regularly use those data in their work”. After the Icelandic financial system imploded in 2008 and following investigations revealed negligence by regulators and mistakes in governance, Open Data came to be seen as a high priority. More and more organizations and private sector companies have started their own efforts.


Italy has adopted in July 2010 new legislation to comply with the EU rules on re-use of public data. Currently the most interesting Open Data initiative carried on by an Italian Public Administration, that is the single project with the largest scope and one coherent vision and roadmap, is the portal for open data launched in 2010 by Region Piedmont, building on already existing common regional guidelines about PSI reuse. Piedmont is the only Italian region in 2010 that is explicitly moving to adopt an open license for all their currently available data (CC0 license), enabling unrestricted re-use and dissemination by anyone, even for commercial purposes.

A collection of Italian PSI datasets (67 as of June 2010) exists as an Italian instance of the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN). That collection deliberately include datasets which aren’t open, to help people get a “big picture” about what is available and how open it is. For example ISTAT, the national institute of statistics, put their data online for free use, but unfortunately commercial reuse is not allowed - which may inhibit the development of innovative applications and services.

On the research and advocacy front, an important initiative based in Piedmont is the EVPSI project (Extracting Value from PSI), whose goal is to study the status of PSI openness in order to maximize the benefits made possible by accessibility and reusability of PSI.

The Nexa Center for Internet and Society, affiliated to the Politecnico di Torino in Piedmont, leads the European thematic network called LAPSI project (Legal Aspects of PSI). Unlike EPSI, LAPSI’s goal is to find, study and overcome the current legal obstacles to PSI reuse. LAPSI will deal both with established PSI areas - such as geographic and land register data - as well as novel areas - such as cultural data from archives, libraries, and scientific information.


The EU’s PSI directive was implemented in Norwegian law through changes in the Freedom of Information Act which came into force January 1, 2009. In the regulations, the Norwegian Mapping Authority has been permitted to continue its policy of charging for access to map data. Given the importance of map data for so many types of applications, the Mapping Authority’s pricing regime has been heavily criticized for years.

A survey among state agencies found out that two thirds possesses data with potential for re-use that is not utilized today. In May 2010, however, the idea competition Nettskap 2.0, a Norwegian version of the Apps for Democracy contest, proved the local demand and interest for Open Data: out of 135 applications received, 90 were based on reuse of data. In April a Norwegian datastore has been announced. Two urgent issues appear to be the need for country-wide standard licenses and licensing guidelines and how to face concerns that published data can be misinterpreted: in a survey of state agencies for the University of Bergen report, 43 percent of respondents agreed that “private businesses and individuals can misunderstand data and disseminate misleading information”.


Swedish law 2010:566, published in July 2010 implements in Sweden the European Union Directive 2003/98/EC. The law specifically purports to promote the development of an information market by facilitating re-use by individuals of documents supplied by the authorities on conditions that cannot be used to restrict competition. The website maintains a registry of Swedish public datasets with their formats and usage restrictions, showing what percentage of the datasets is fully open, that is in open format and free for anyone to re-use and re-distribute without restriction.

United Kingdom

In this period, the United Kingdom is probably the European country where Open Data are getting the most attention from central government and major national parties. In June 2010 the team announced the first meeting of a new Public Sector Transparency Board to:

  • make transparency a core part of all government business

  • ensuring that deadlines set for releasing the most essential and requested public datasets were respected

  • setting common open data standards, according to the principle that: “Public data policy and practice will be clearly driven by the public and businesses who want and use the data, including what data is released when and in what form."

Similar concepts were expressed in the Speech on Smarter Government. In April 2010 Francis Maud, then Conservative shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, explained that for UK Tories citizens are owners of their data and they will boost British jobs. The same concepts had been expressed in detail one month earlier in the UK Conservative Technology Manifesto: “We will create a powerful new Right to Government Data, enabling the public to request - and receive - government datasets. This will ensure that the most important government datasets are released - providing a multi-billion pound boost to the UK economy. President Obama’s administration has already implemented a ‘Right to Data’ policy. We will unleash an open data revolution…"