In the European Union, the public sector is one of the most data-intensive sectors. The re-use of the open data can contribute, for example, to the growth of the European economy, the development of artificial intelligence and to overcoming societal challenges.

The EU open data market is a key building block of the overall EU data economy. The total direct economic value of PSI is expected to increase from a baseline of EUR 52 billion in 2018 for the EU28, to EUR 194 billion in 2030 (source: study supporting the impact assessment carried out to provide input to the review of the PSI Directive).

On 25 April 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a revision of the PSI Directive, which was presented as part of a package of measures aiming to facilitate the creation of a common data space in the EU. This review also fulfils the revision obligation set out in Article 13 of the Directive.

The proposal is the result of an extensive public consultation process, an evaluation of the current PSI Directive and an impact assessment. This proposal received a positive opinion from the Regulatory Scrutiny Board.

The existing context: barriers to overcome

The proposal aims to overcome the barriers that still prevent the full re-use of public sector information, which according to the impact assessment include the following:

  • Data generated by the utilities and transport sectors has tremendous re-use potential. Yet, entities active in these sectors are not covered by the PSI Directive, although many of them are fully or partly funded by public money. The same is true for research data resulting from public funding;
  • Dynamic data is one of the most commercially valuable types of data, as it can be used for products and services that provide information in real time, such as travel or transport apps. However, the provision of real-time access to dynamic data held by public sector bodies, for example using application programming interfaces (APIs), is rare;
  • Several public sector bodies continue to charge well above what is needed to cover reproduction and dissemination costs for the re-use of public sector data. Such charges constitute a market barrier for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Getting rid of charges typically results in a surge in demand for public sector data, which translates into more innovation, more business growth and, ultimately, higher budget revenues (via taxes) for the public sector;
  • Public data holders sometimes enter into arrangements with the private sector to derive extra value from their data. This creates the risk of lock-in of public sector data, benefiting large companies and thereby limiting the number of potential re-users of the data in question.

Aims of the revised Directive

In respect of the continued existence of these barriers, the changes proposed are to:

  • Reduce market entry barriers, in particular for SMEs, by limiting the exceptions that allow public bodies to charge for the re-use of their data more than the marginal costs of dissemination;
  • Increase the availability of data by bringing new types of public and publicly funded data into the scope of the Directive, such as data held by public undertakings in the utilities and transport sectors and research data resulting from public funding;
  • Minimise the risk of excessive first-mover advantage, which benefits large companies and thereby limits the number of potential re-users of the data in question, by requiring a more transparent process for the establishment of public–private data arrangements;
  • Increase business opportunities by encouraging the dissemination of dynamic data via application programming interfaces (APIs).

Political Agreement

On 22 January 2019, negotiators from the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission reached an agreement on the revised Directive. Once adopted, the newly named Open Data and Public Sector Information Directive will:

  • Identify, by way of adoption of an implementing act, a list of high-value datasets such as geospatial or statistics data to be provided free of charge. These datasets have a high commercial potential, and can speed up the emergence of value-added EU-wide information products and services and the development of AI.
  • Stimulate the publishing of dynamic data and the uptake of Application Programme Interfaces (APIs).
  • Limit the exceptions which currently allow public bodies to charge more than the marginal costs of dissemination for the re-use of their data.
  • Enlarge the scope of the Directive to:
    •  data held by public undertakings, under a specific set of rules. In principle, the Directive will only apply to data which the undertakings make available for re-use. Charges for the re-use of such data can be above marginal costs for dissemination;
    •  research data resulting from public funding – Member States will be asked to develop policies for open access to publicly funded research data. New rules will also facilitate the re-usability of research data that is already contained in open repositories.
    • Strengthen the transparency requirements for public–private agreements involving public sector information, avoiding exclusive arrangements.