EU to Review Public Sector Data Rules

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The European Union is re-examining what it does with public sector information. This information includes financial and economic data, maps, meteorological updates and legal documents.

The data gathered by public sector bodies can be used by anyone and frequently forms the basis of information applications on smartphones as well as online weather forecasts, news and other such updates. Although much of the information is available for free, fees are sometimes charged and generate an estimated €27 billion (US$39 billion) each year.

The new consultation, which was announced on Thursday, will seek ways to leverage this public sector information to increase E.U. competitiveness, innovation and to create more jobs. The consultation is being run by the European Commission and is open to feedback and suggestions from anyone from companies to private citizens.

An online form offers details. The sections for participants to comment on include the scope, charging fees and licensing of data, and the digital format available to users.

Public sector data is currently an under-used resource with great potential, said Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.

"Better and more use of public sector information has great potential to generate new businesses and jobs and to provide consumers with more choice and more value for money. The mobile apps market, partly based on public sector information-generated data, could grow to €15 billion by 2013," she said.

At the end of the consultation period on Nov. 30, the Commission will review the current Public Sector Information Directive and may make amendments based on the feedback received. The directive was first adopted in 2003 and this potential revision is part of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

In 2009, the Commission reviewed the way in which public sector information rules were being applied and confirmed that re-use of the information was on the rise. However, the Commission also warned that to realize the full potential for the E.U. economy, member states must remove remaining barriers to re-use including excessive charges and complex licensing policies.

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