New EU directive to create public data pool

By on 28/01/2019
Data store: the new EU directive is designed to feed the digital economy with public data (Image courtesy: dimitrisvetsikas1969/Pixabay).

The European Parliament, Commission and Council have agreed a new directive to increase the availability and re-use of public sector data across the EU.

The agreement is designed to create a huge pool of anonymised information for use by businesses and public bodies, supporting the European data economy to become more competitive and spurring “the development and uptake of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and many others”, the European Council said.

The new rules apply to all public sector data that can currently be accessed under current national ‘access to document rules’. Statistics such as household energy consumption, national and regional educational attainment and literacy levels, meteorological data and traffic statistics are just some of the data sources to be drawn on.

Grist to the AI mill

The EC’s Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, said: “Public sector information has already been paid for by the taxpayer. Making it more open for re-use benefits the European data economy by enabling new innovative products and services, for example based on artificial intelligence technologies.”

The Directive on Open Data and Public Sector Information is an update to existing EU rules in the 2003 EU Open Data Policy. Changes were deemed necessary due to the changing nature of the digital economy in recent years, and new technologies’ increasing reliance on vast amounts of data.

Particular focus will be placed on high-value datasets such as statistics or geospatial data, which the Commission says “have a high commercial potential, and can speed up the emergence of a wide variety of value-added information products and services.”

Data-based growth

EC Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, said: “Data is increasingly the lifeblood of today’s economy and unlocking the potential of public open data can bring significant economic benefits.

“The total direct economic value of public sector information and data from public undertakings is expected to increase from €52 billion [$60bn] in 2018 to €194 billion [$222bn] by 2030. With these new rules in place, we will ensure that we can make the most of this growth”, he added.

As well as encouraging innovation and boosting economic growth, Gabriel said open public sector data is also important for democracy and society “because it increases transparency and supports a facts-based public debate.”

The new data sharing directive is fully compliant with GDPR, and Member States will have the next two years to implement it.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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