Three year project aims to boost Europe-wide use of open data
The European Commission has bolstered the cause of a pan-European approach to open data with the award a three year contract to a consortium led by Capgemini for a work programme that includes the development of a new Open Data Portal.
Dinand Tinholt, vice president and EU lead at Capgemini Consulting, told UKAuthority that it hopes to have the first version of the new portal running by November of this year.
The project is aimed at upgrading the service available from the EU's existing publicdata.eu portal, harvesting data from national sources as users request it, and making it easier to aggregate data sets.
Tinholt said it will require the adoption of standards, based on the World Wide Web Consortium's Data Catalog Vocabulary, to ensure compatibility between individual data sets and the portal. This will involve presenting data in suitable formats and the adoption of appropriate metadata.
"There is a big question, especially if data comes from individual agencies rather than the governments, around how you make sure that they use these standards," he said, adding that there are signs it could be a problem in some countries. "This will be a big thing in our support activities."
One of the major requirements will be the re-usability of data, which is sometimes undermined when it is made available in PDF format.
The programme will also involve ensuring the necessary technical and legal infrastructure is in place, and that the data could be accessible through the portal and specially developed application programme interfaces.
"We have three years for the overall engagement, and the amount of data in the portal will be entirely dependent on how much the members make of it," Tinholt said. "There's no hard target for how much they make available, but there is an ambition in the campaign to increase the number of data sets by at least 25%."
Other members of the consortium include the Open Data Institute and the University of Southampton, along with Sogeti, Intrasoft International, Fraunhofer FOKUS, con terra and time.lex.
The other strands of the consortium's work will involve encouraging governments and agencies to make data available, and fostering its re-use by organisations and individuals. It will work with the member states and those of the countries in the European Economic Area. This will include preparing analytical reports, a study on the economic impact of publishing data, a report on the sustainability of open data portal infrastructures, and localised support for national administrations.
"This strategic project is at the heart of all the open and big data initiatives of public administrations across Europe," Tinholt said. "It will also serve as a platform to engage with private players, of all sizes, in the field of open data and predictive analytics."
He said the Commission hopes that within the three years all member states will have their own clear strategies on open data and begun to implement them throughout their organisations, and that this will help public and private sector organisations extract more value from the data.
The UK is widely regarded as a world leader in the field of open data. It was at the top of the rankings in last month's Open Data Barometer, published by the World Wide Web Foundation, and on the Open Data Index, published late last year by Open Knowledge. Some other EU members, such as Romania and Croatia, do not figure in the top 100.