A Connecting Europe Success Story

Public Open Data

Photo by Carlos Muza

Every day, public institutions across Europe are publishing more and more data – in categories as broad as health, traffic, public spending and agriculture. Through Open Data, all this data has economic potential. Open Data encourages the reuse and analysis of existing data to create new products and services. The Public Open Data Digital Services Infrastructure makes it easier for public services and businesses to access and reuse this public data through the European Data Portal.

What is the European Data Portal?

The European Data Portal is an online portal that collects metadata (data about the data) published by public bodies across Europe, collating it into a searchable tool accessible by anyone. Whether it’s a transport tech start-up trying to make commuting more efficient, or a journalist investigating government spending, they can access that data via the European Data Portal.

What are the benefits?

How do the Building Blocks fit in?

  • eTranslation translates the metadata harvested by the portal into any of the 24 official EU languages.

  • eID supports the portal’s login system – which enables users to log queries, search live data, and store complex data queries

Why was the project set up?

To reap the benefits of Open Data, Member States and the data sector in Europe needed a single portal to access public data.

Wendy Carrara, Director and EU policy advisor at Capgemini Consulting, describes this need. “There was no single data portal. There was a portal from the publications office, to publish open data from different EU institutions, but there was no point of single contact at a pan-European level that could give access to data across Europe, in all 24 languages. So that’s what we developed.”

From the outset, the project team had two clear goals:

  1. Make it easier for anyone to access and reuse public sector information
  2. Encourage the development of data applications and products reusing this information

How was the European Data Portal implemented?

The Connecting Europe Facility had identified the need for this data portal. The next phase was to consult Member States and the data community to understand their respective needs.

Wendy knew collaboration was critical to the success of the project. She says, “To find out what people wanted for the user interface, the features, the functionalities, we consulted Member States and Open Data communities.”

Consulting Member States was a two-way process. The team worked to understand what functionality Member States needed, while also helping them improve the data published by their respective public portals – ensuring that the data reaching the European Data Portal was quality reusable data.

Working with Open Data communities meant acquiring feedback on desired features, functionality, and licensing information. This cooperation ensured the data published on the portal was fit for purpose and could be reused effectively.

After this period of consultation, the portal was developed – partly from scratch, but also using components already available from the Open Data community worldwide.

During development, there were obvious opportunities to integrate functionalities with the CEF Building Blocks:

  • The translation of metadata. Metadata would need to be translated into all 24 official EU languages to be properly accessible.
  • The identification of users. eIDAS requires Member States to allow citizens from other Member States to use their electronic IDs to access their online services, which would require investment and know-how. 

By implementing the eTranslation Building Block, the portal can translate metadata 'en masse'. The scale of the translation needed by the European Data Portal means that machine translation is an ideal solution – turning every piece of harvested metadata into something accessible in all 24 official European languages.

Wendy explains how the portal has also has a login system which is supported by the eID Building Block. “We use EU Login, the eID verification system that’s used by the Commission and that enables people to register to the portal, to log queries, to live data search, and give them a few additional features to allow them to store complex machine language queries.”

How is the European Data Portal evolving?

Since its launch in 2015, the portal is evolving to meet the needs of Member States.

On 1 March 2017, the European Data Portal was updated to version 2.0 – directly addressing feedback and adding features to make the portal easier to use. Wendy describes this commitment to collaboration, “We’re open to receiving feedback since the launch of the portal in 2015, in terms of new developments, directions to take and different features.”

The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is working to ensure Member States are unlocking the full potential of the European Data Portal and the Open Data economy. Most recently, the 2016 CEF Telecom Public Open Data call gave Member States the opportunity to apply for funding to projects to improve the quality of their data, giving it more use for other projects.

 As a result, actions are being developed to support Open Data initiatives across European countries. Recently, this has included making high-quality data on air pollution and air quality available, and developing a methodology for all EU/EEA member states to publish standardised air quality data sets. Assurance tools are also being developed, for streamlining the process of making raw data suitable for publication as trusted open data.

To support the understanding of Open Data across Europe, the team has expanded the European Data Portal to include an Open Data eLearning portal. A short course on Open Data, it provides training materials for users to understand the value of data and how it can be utilised to provide value for business and public administrations.

What are the results?

Citizens now have a window into public institutions across Europe. There are currently over 750,000 data-sets published on the European Data Portal, freely accessible by citizens, journalists and businesses. People can use their native language to navigate the portal and access these datasets, which leads to initiatives like OpenCoesione.com.it.

OpenCoesione analyses projects financed by Italian the department of Cohesion Policies (Dipartimento per le Politiche di Coesione). It shows how much money the department spends on different subjects in different regions, with visualisations. Citizens can analyse how this department within the government is spending money.

Public services are expected to make gains in efficiency from this greater openness and transparency. By using Open Data, Member States are forecasted to make 1.7 billion EUR in efficiency savings by 2020. One example of Open Data being used to create efficiency is the OASIS project.

The OASIS project uses Open Data to improve the accessibility of public services, including public transport, in the city of Ghent and the region of Madrid. By collaborating to publish Open Data, the goal is to improve the accessibility of public services and applications that function across borders.

Innovation in business is fostered by Open Data. Whether it’s air pollution, traffic congestion or public spending, the reuse of data can help the private sector address a market need. On the European Data Portal, there are over 160 cases of Open Data being used in across many different sectors, from agriculture to transport.

Plume Labs in France tracks the hourly pollution levels in sixty cities in the world, including ten cities in France, four cities in Belgium and four cities in the UK. The start-up uses data made public by different agencies engaged in a policy of Open Data, such as Airparif in Paris.

The creation of this central Open Data hub is both a practical and symbolic gesture towards transparency and accountability, adding value.

Last updated on  Mar 20, 2019 08:25
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