Open Data portals are web-based interfaces designed to make it easier to find re-usable information.
Like library catalogues, they contain metadata records of datasets published for re-use, i.e. mostly relating to information in the form of raw, numerical data and not to textual documents. In combination with specific search functionalities, they facilitate finding datasets of interest. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are also often available, offering direct and automated access to data for software applications.
Open Data portals are an important element of most Open Data initiatives. While supporting the policy by offering easy access to data published, they can also work as a catalyst triggering the publication of more and better quality data. For administrations obliged or willing to disseminate their data, they offer the advantage of providing public access without the need to reply to individual requests for access to data.
Open Data portals are mainly used by public administrations at European, national and local level, as they publish a large variety of data. But more and more companies are opening up some of their data for developers to re-use.
Notable examples of Open Data portals maintained by public administrations in Europe are:
The European Commission offers an Open Data portal site for any type of information held by the Commission and other EU institutions and bodies. This EU Open Data Portal is in operation since December 2012.
The Commission also provides funding, through Connecting Europe Facility programme, for a pan-European digital service infrastructure for Open Data. The principal objective is to provide a single point of access in all 24 EU official languages for data published by public administrations at all levels of government in Europe (EU countries, countries of the European Economic Area and certain other European countries).
In order to foster comparability of data published across borders, it represents metadata references in a common format (DCAT application profile for data portals in Europe) using RDF technology. Using machine-translation technology, it will progressively provide translations of metadata descriptions in all 24 languages. Called the European Data Portal, it is currently available in beta mode since November 2015. Further features and linguistic versions are being developed.
The portal complements national, regional or thematic Open Data portals, as well as the Open Data Portal of the EU institutions. Each of them target relevant user audience, offering tailored content. This infrastructure will stimulate cross-border use of re-usable information in Europe by improving the findability of data across countries and supporting the development of data applications and products including data from different countries, for example, by offering assistance on applicable licensing conditions.