Open data makes government agencies more accessible

Open data for new solutions. This was one of the items on the agenda of the National Innovation Council meeting on 15 May. Ms Barbara Ubaldi, project manager at the OECD, where she leads the work on digital government and open data, was invited to the meeting to inform about open data initiatives in other countries. The Government has asked the OECD to review and deliver proposals on how Sweden can accelerate the use of data in the public sector.

Barbara Ubaldi
Barbara Ubaldi, OECD. Photo: Ninni Andersson/Government Offices

What are the main benefits for society and industry of access to government data?

The access to government data, under the conditions that it is made available as open data, can lead to a number of diversified benefits for societies and economies. This includes enabling improved and more democratic engagement in governments' activities by citizens, business and civil society, such as in policy design and implementation, as well as visibility of government's decisions; more opportunities to innovate the design and delivery of srvices that bring value to the providers and to the users, as well as the possibility to establish innovative businesses and start-ups.

Which countries have had the best results of improving access to government data? What effects have they achieved?

According to the OECD OURData Index that measures governments' efforts to increase data availability, accessibility and re-use Korea, France and the UK are the governments that have achieved the best results in terms of accessibility. Countries that rank the highest in the OECD OUData Index have undertaken actions that increased accessibility also to non-technical segments of the population, that is the average citizen who would not know how to take advantage of the raw data. These actions include for instance the development of visualisation tools embedded in the open data portal or the focus on facilitating the emergence of a new category of business called infomediaries (companies created specifically to re-use the data to produce innovative services and products).

From your perspective, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Sweden regarding open data?

In my perspective Sweden has all the conditions to deliver the best value to its economy and societies, i.e. a critical mass of government data which are the result of decades of management of core government data registries, a digitally sophisticated public sector and society, and a broad ecosystem of potential re-users which matured thanks to a well-developed information market. In terms of weakness we can probably highlight the need to increase  government agencies' engagement for the prioritisation of data release, to improve data quality and completeness and to increase data re-use to create value. Sweden can now count on the political and leadership support and commitment to open data and I am sure it will leverage it to deliver important developments in the near future.