Data Openness in EU

(this page is part of my 2011 report on “Open Data: Emerging trends, issues and best practices”. Please follow that link to reach the Introduction and Table of Content, but don’t forget to also check the notes for readers! of the initial report of the same project, “Open Data, Open Society”)

Both the interest and the need for data opennes at the European Union level remain high. Here, without making any complete analysis, we’ll only report and comment a few relevant episodes. While studies continue to point at the political and economical advantages of Open Data, great inefficiencies and delays still keep the time and cost savings that could be achieved a far goal for the European Union.

All the principles of the Open Declaration (collaboration, transparency, empowerment) have been declared key areas of action of the new EC eGov action plan. Particularly important, as explained by David Osimo in EU eGov action plan published: the good, the bad and the unknown, are the actions on Open Data (a EU portal and a revision of the EU PSI directive), and on citizens control over their data. However the Action Plan contains no reference to the need for a more open and collaborative governance.

In the case of European Structural Funds, as Luigi Reggi reported in March 2011:

there is no single point of access to the data. Hundreds of Managing Authorities are following different paths and implementing different information strategies when opening up their data.
Many databases (often simple PDF lists) `[]` huge variation not only in the way they can be accessed but also in content and quality of data provided.
... `[...The results of...]` an independent web-based survey on the overall quality of data published by each Managing Authority responsible for the 434 Operational Programmes approved in July 2009... can be summarized as follows:
The use of open, machine-processable and linked-data formats have unexpected advantages in terms of transparency and re-use of the data by the public and private sector. The application of these technical principles does not need extra budget or major changes in government organization and information management; nor does it require the update of existing software and infrastructures. What is needed today is the promotion among national and local authorities of the culture of transparency and the raising of awareness of the benefits that could derive from opening up existing data and information in a re-usable way.
TheEuropean Cohesion Policy is only halfway to accomplishing a paradigm shift to open data, with differences in performance both between and - in some cases - within European Countries.

Things don’t go much better for the European Union in the energy field. Carlo Stagnaro wrote in EU Energy Orwellianism: Ignorance Is Strength:

Energy is an active area of EU public policy. Yet authorities are not revealing information (data is surely has) that is crucial to determine whether its policies are distorting the market and come at too high a cost to society. This is a major fault in Europe's credibility in advancing its policy goals, as well as a serious limitation to the accountability of the policy making process
We realized that, while strongly supporting green investments the EU does not know, or does not make it public, how much is spent every year on green subsidies... With regard to green jobs, several estimates exist, but no official figure is provided.
More recently... I discovered that Eurostat does not tell how much coal capacity is installed - as opposed to natural gas- or oil-fueled generation plants. It is possible to know how much coal is used, but not the amount of fixed capital which is invested in coal plants. If data are not available, every conclusion is questionable because it relies on assumptions or estimates.