We are going to take action: we are going to open up Europe’s public sector.
I am convinced that the potential to re-use public data is significantly untapped. Such data is a resource, a new and valuable raw material. If we became able to mine it, that would be an investment which would pay off with benefits for all of us.
Benefits for the citizen and for society, because making good use of public data can make your life better. Whether it’s route planning using public geo-information or public transport data; a local community crowd-sourcing its maintenance priorities; decision-making built on statistics of all shapes and sizes; or data journalism that helps explain our world.
Second, benefits for the economy, as business opportunities to use such data increase. Especially if we spread data as wide as possible to give every idea a chance rather than locking it up in exclusive licensing arrangements. I want to see many companies turning their ideas into revenues and many citizens benefitting.
Third, benefits for science. Because research in genomics, pharmacology or the fight against cancer increasingly depends on the availability and sophisticated analysis of large data sets. Sharing such data means researchers can collaborate, compare, and creatively explore whole new realms. We cannot afford for access to scientific knowledge to become a luxury, and the results of publicly funded research in particular should be spread as widely as possible.
Fourth, of course there is some self-interest in this as well: there are benefits for the public sector itself. Think of the potential efficiency gains. Many that thought they knew it all will be inspired – and humbled – by what others will make of “their” data. Others will simply be learning by example how to better analyse and use it.
And, perhaps most importantly, benefits for democracy because it enhances transparency, accessibility and accountability. After all, what could be more natural than public authorities who have collected information on behalf of citizens using their tax money giving it back to those same citizens. New professionals such as data journalists are our allies in explaining what we do.