In the EU, the public sector is one of the most data-intensive sectors. Open data has gained a lot of recognition in the short term and the number of public datasets has increased significantly over the years. Open data is an important spearhead in the digital strategy of the EU and national administrations. But what is it exactly? Where does it come from? What can you do with it? Where do you find all this data? And what is its economic added value?
Open data is a raw set of data, without sensitive or personal information. Think, for example, of population per municipality, weather data, municipal boundaries, address information of swimming pools and squares, and so on. When this data can be used and distributed for free by anyone in an easy to process format (such as Excel), it can provide surprising results.
Governments respond cleverly to open data by setting up programmes and platforms with which you can easily retrieve all kinds of data. In this way companies, start-ups or students can reuse this data and entrepreneurship is triggered. Open data can contribute to the development of tools or apps, which in turn can add value for public services. Open data stimulates innovation, offers tools for alternative decision-making and contributes to the development of a knowledge economy.
In addition to stimulating entrepreneurship, the government itself can also benefit. Making open dataavailable can improve public services, reduce administrative costs, and increase interaction with citizens, businesses, and organisations. In addition, it creates more transparency about government activities and the services have become increasingly trendy in recent years. Our capital is already setting a good example.
The Brussels-Capital Region has been pursuing an open data policy for a number of years within the framework of ‘Brussels Smart City’. By offering as much of its data and documents as possible under an open licence, Brussels aims to encourage its citizens, developers, businesses and associations to use this data.
For example, the Where’s My Villo? application was developed, which uses open data from the Villo stations. The app links this data to data from users of shared bicycles. In this way, cyclists can use the application to send a message when they encounter problems with the use of a Villo, such as a lack of a bicycle or parking space, a broken or poorly moving bicycle, problems with the official Villo! app, etc. On the basis of information about the Villo stations (e.g. the number of times a station does not have a bicycle or parking facility available), Where is my Villo?can provide a list of the most malfunctioning ones. Disclosure of information will therefore lead to greater transparency regarding the Villo service and encourage the private operator to improve the quality of its service (different distribution of bicycles, relocation of stations, new stations, more frequent transfer of bicycles between stations, etc.).
At Waze, too, traffic data is collected from travellers, which is then further exploited by linking it to open data on roadworks.
DThe town of Rennes in France was thinking of publishing the geographical data of 80,000 reduced pavement locations. Two developers have thus created an application that maps itineraries for people with reduced mobility. In addition to people with reduced mobility, the city itself also benefits: it is more accessible and can receive more visitors.
The European Commission makes clear in its data strategy that European rules on privacy, data protection and competition law must continue to be respected at all times. If the rules on data access and use are fair, practical and clear, open data can provide solutions at different levels. This is a good result from different parties thinking together. Teamwork makes the dream work, right?
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Written by Emiel Koonen, Legal Adviser theJurists, and Kris Seyen, Partner theJurists