Three Challenges of Open Data at the Digital Agenda Assembly

Today’s Digital Agenda Data Workshop left us with a good discussion about what the opportunities and hurdles of Open Data are, and what can be done by all the stakeholders.

The European Commission roadmap

EC initiatives so far could be summarized as the development of an Open Data communication strategy, the revision of the PSI directive and an EC reuse policy. That includes the launch on beta stage of the new Open Data EC portal at mid July and a future Pan-European portal.

Also important to recall the European bet for data handling, open data and open access pilots and portals through the FP7 and CIP 2011-13 R&D&I programmes, currently almost gone, but that will have continuity with the new Horizon 2020 programme.

Data hot topics

Paul Miller gave an excellent introduction based on the previous online discussion that uncovers the main hot topics for the Agenda: Open Data, Linked Data and Big Data, as well as the importance of the four V’s of data: Big Volume, Velocity, Variety and Value.

He also remembered us the importance of best practices and open standards for open data, a recurrent topic, given that we have currently 150+ on-going initiatives all around Europe, but all of them are slightly different.

Finally, François Bancihon in his keynote raised his voice again for the need of a single pan-European license and advised us about the perils of Open Data and the Power of Data, with a few very good examples:

  • Twitter has more accurate information about Netflix’s downtime that Netflix.
  • Google knows about unemployment claims before the unemployment office.
  • Target knows about the pregnancy of the teen before their parents.

PSI application areas

With the opening tagline of Data is the new currency of democracy the first session focused on showcasing specific application areas:

Company registers

Without any doubt, one of the hot topics at the Workshop, mainly due to the great and controversial report published by Chris Taggart, from Open Corporates about how open company registers in Europe are, and the inevitable comparison with the European business registry closed model based on pay-to-play access.

Sadly, Spain scores 0 points in the report due to its fully closed registry, a pity for one of the most popular and desired datasets.

Geographical information

On more time, impressive stats on GEOdata usage: 120k accesses and 60k Gb of data. Geospatial confirms as one of the EU Open Data successful areas, given that 80% of needs for decisions from public authorities have a geospatial component. It is a fundamental layer necessary for open data and innovation, thus the need to remain open.

Also interesting the Earth Observatory use case that helps to manage resources such as energy, freshwater and agriculture. It measures land-use change and help to address social challenges. The lesson to learn from the project: all attempts to commercialise data supply failed, it needs to be open and freely available. Important to say that it was launched with government support and sponsorship, so Governments play also a leading role in Open Data progress.


The use case presented focused on the legal issues and barriers for reuse. Is scrapping legal? Who is the owner of the information? Unfortunately, you can find some cases where data is open by default and others where data managers refuse to supply the information.

The bad side: Fighting in court could take long months, even years, no matter how obvious the case is.

Data and language challenges

One of the sessions I was personally expecting was the one which got together some of the European expert companies in the fields of translation, internationalization, localization and multilingual services. Surprisingly for me, the discussion focused on semantics of contents and not metadata as I expected.

The conclusion was that one of the few remaining European barriers are the cultural and language ones, a real problem for a successful Single Digital Market. Multilingualism can be a benefit if properly exploited, once we can process data based on language knowledge, we can obtain remarkable results and a competitive advantage. The real challenge is to be able to process multilingual data and enable it to flow through languages, countries and markets.

A multilingual infrastructure is as important for Europe as a broadband infrastructure.

Value generation and the future of the EU data economy

The last session focused on data value generation based on the premise that data itself is not valuable alone and what we need are data analysis solutions for insight and decisions, not just technology.

Several data intensive areas were mentioned as potential SMEs business opportunities for analysis, simulation or analytics, such as: Retail, Manufacturing, Social Media, Ageing Population, Urban Management, Transport, Food Security, the Public Sector or Health and Medical data.

There is also an agreement on the fact that it’s time to look for innovative business models around Open Data, such as streaming data analytics with live data that is not stored but processed on the fly. The doubt is still what come first, more data openness or better business models.

Open Data challenges

In the wrap-up session, some final remarks, three main Open Data challenges were proposed for the Digital Agenda:

  • Sustainability of Open Data.
  • Profit vs. public interest data uses.
  • Multilingualism issues.

As a conclusion, we can finish with one of the most remarkable quotes of the day, by Chris Taggart:

Open your data or say good-bye to democracy

2 thoughts on “Three Challenges of Open Data at the Digital Agenda Assembly

  1. Pingback: Los tres retos del Open Data en la Asamblea de la Agenda Digital Europea | Natural Webmanship

  2. Pingback: The European Commission steps forward on Open Data and PSI re-use | Carlos Iglesias' Web Whisperer

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