Data Maturity, Part 2a – The European Union and the Open Data Barometer

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In part 1 of my Data Maturity blog last week, we looked at how U.S. federal governments are doing. This week I want to look at how the European Union is progressing. Over the next two weeks we’ll take a look at two reports: the Open Data Barometer, 2nd Edition by the World Wide Web Foundation and the “Creating Value through Open Data” report by Capgemini Consulting.

The Open Data Barometer was completed in January 2015 and samples the progress of 86 countries in support of making public data openly available, without charge and in re-usable formats. Twenty-one percent of the countries in the Open Data Barometer belong to the European Union including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

It’s interesting that there is no data from Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia in the Barometer. For argument’s sake, I will presume the Barometer itself leaves out at least some data from these EU countries. For instance, Bulgaria’s Center for the Study of Democracy has lots of free and accessible information at least in PDF format. Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and the Slovak Republic are all participants of the Open Government Partnership. The Open Government Partnership has progress reports from these countries from 2012 and 2013 but I couldn’t find any more recent data.

In 2013, the G8 (now the G7) pledged to become ‘open by default’ in an Open Data Charter. In the first edition of the Open Data Barometer (2013), 10% of key government datasets across the world were found to be truly open to the public. It’s unclear what percentage of the 10% belongs to European Union countries. Two years later, the ‘open by default’ pledge continues to gain momentum. However, there are still opportunities for improvement to fulfill this Open Data Charter pledge and unlock the power of open data.

The current total of open datasets in the Open Data Barometer is 1,290 and also draws on over 14,000 different data points. In 2014, the UK was number one at harnessing open data for social and economic benefit, followed by the US, Sweden, New Zealand and France. France was among the biggest climbers this year, rising six places. The UK had an ODB-Scaled score of 100 while Poland as the lowest ranking EU country (#35) had a score of 36.99.

These scores were determined by looking at a maximum of 16 datasets per country: map, land, census, budget, spending, legislation, company, trade, health, education, crime, environment, elections and contracts datasets. The score was compiled using the following categories about the data- is it open, does it exist, is it available, is it machine-readable, is it available in bulk, is it available at no charge, does it use a license, is it updated, is it sustainable, discoverable and linked. Country specialists were asked to respond to a number of detailed questions about the open data situation in a specific country between June and September 2014. More nitty-gritty survey methodology details are here.

The visualization above will give you another perspective of how the EU is faring. I applied the tools I’m learning in my first data science graduate course to create this visualization using a choropleth map in CartoDB even though I’m learning on Sci2 open source software in my course. I chose CartoDB because it’s a little more intuitive than Sci2 for me right now and it’s always good to learn as many tools and technical skills as possible. The aggregated data I used for the visualization and the raw data with the characteristics that contributed to the score can be found here.

Next week I will compare the Open Data Barometer results with the Capgemini Consulting “Creating Value through Open Data” report completed in November 2015. I’ve decided to split these into two separate articles since the Capgemini report is written from how data impacts the economy and delves in more detail on the economic consequences of not being ‘open by default.’

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