Regulatory trends on open data in the EU

2022-07-20 14:08:15

The water market is highly driven by regulations. In this piece we will look into the EU stance on the use of open data. This is highly relevant for the SCOREwater project, since the mission of the project is to link the physical and digital world for city water management solutions and proper data analysis and management is key.  

The EU stance on open data

Open Data and the reuse of public sector information are important parts of the open data market and the EU data economy. The Open data  policy states that data generated with public money should be made freely available for reuse by the public, notably businesses, civil society, and researchers, to boost open innovation across the economy and society. This is also the idea behind the 2019 Directive on Open Data and the Re-Use of Public Sector Information, the Open Data Directive, which replaces the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive

Initiatives that led up to this directive were taken already in 2003, as the European Commission set up a legal framework to allow the reuse of public sector information through the PSI Directive (Directive 2003/98/EC). The directive is based on two pillars: transparency and fair competition, and focuses on the economic aspects of the reuse of information. The long-term objective is to expand the European Open Science Cloud user base to the public sector and to relevant industries, thus advancing both Open Science and Open Innovation to the benefit of society and the economy.

The European Commission performed a review and impact assessment of the PSI Directive and proposed a revision of the PSI Directive as part of a package of measures aiming to facilitate the creation of a common data space in the EU. The revised directive (EU) 2019/1024 on open data and the reuse of public sector information was adopted and published in June 2019. The member states were advised to implement the directive no later than by 16 July 2021.

The Open Data Directive applies to all data that can be accessed under the “access to information” laws of each Member State and that is held by national, regional, or local public organizations. Public bodies include ministries, State agencies, libraries, cultural heritage institutions, but also publicly funded research centers and public companies, such as transport, utilities, and postal services. Only security, intellectual property and personal data are excluded from the legislation.

The directive introduces the concept of high-value datasets, defined as data that is associated with important benefits for the society and economy when reused. The directive states that data reuse should be free of charge or at a low usage fee that does not exceed the marginal cost of their dissemination. “High-value” datasets (geospatial, earth observation, environmental, meteorological, statistical, mobility, company ownership) should always be free of charge and available through APIs in machine readable formats and, where relevant, as bulk download.  In addition to the Open Data Directive, a number of non-legislative measures support the opening up of public sector information.


The Open Data Directive in practice


In Sweden the PSI Directive has given rise to the Swedish PSI Act (Act (2010: 566) on the reuse of documents from the public administration). The Swedish government have thereafter issued a proposal for a new law on public sector access to data, the so-called Data Law. The law has not yet been adopted by the parliament but is proposed to enter into force by August 2022. The Data Law aims to promote the public sector's availability of data for reuse, especially in the form of open data, provided that requirements for information security and protection of personal data can be maintained and that it does not in any way expose Swedish interests to risks. 

The new data law shall apply when an authority, a body that is equated with an authority or a public company makes data available for further use. It is introduced i.a. requirements for the format in which different types of data are to be made available. It also regulates what shall apply in respect of the allocation of exclusive rights to reuse data as well as the collection of fees and the design of conditions when data is made available.


The Netherlands already had an ‘open, unless’ policy in place since 2011 and also holds lists of municipal and provincial high value-dataset based on what was ‘deemed to be of high-value’ by a department / administration. In 2019, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations published the Government Data Agenda ('Data Agenda Overheid') on behalf of the Dutch cabinet. This agenda follows the National Open Data Agenda. The Government Data Agenda is an intergovernmental agenda that sets out what the government will do to better deal with personal data, open data and big data. The agenda describes how data can better benefit policymaking and the solution of social issues by the government. Alongside this initiative the government-wide Open Government Program to ensure that coherence between activities of government organizations can be improved in regards of government information. Since January 2022, the Open Government Action Plan has been included in the program. This action plan aims at creating a government that is: transparent and provides information to society, both on its own (active) and on request (passive).


In Spain the approval of the Law 37/2007 on the reuse of Public Sector Information by the Spanish Parliament in 2008 signalled the start for the development of the reuse of public sector information policies. Thereafter, the genesis of the reuse of public sector information has been the “Aporta Initiative” that was launched in 2009 to promote the opening of public information and development of advanced services based on data. In 2013, the Spanish government launched a technical standard for interoperability among public bodies with open data and PSI-reuse initiatives. This normative document defines the technical requirements for open data publishers (URI schemes, metadata set, licenses, etc.) at all governmental levels in Spain. 

Today Spain holds a leading position in the Open Data Maturity assessment, where a series of indicators have been selected to measure open data maturity across Europe. These indicators cover the level of development of national policies promoting open data, an assessment of the features made available on national data portals as well as the expected impact of open data. Spain is thereby amongst the trendsetters regarding open data policies and strategies, open data reuse, assessing portal functions and features that enable users to access open data as well as mechanisms that ensures the quality of data. (Spain ranks no. 3, in 2021, the Netherlands ranks at no. 10 and Sweden at no. 17). Spain also has a relatively progressive digital agenda for 2025. With measurements such as: a 'National Artificial Intelligence Strategy', related to the availability of open data; the 'Creation of a Data Office', in charge of designing and proposing strategies that make public data of the administrations available to companies and citizens; and the 'Promotion of shared data spaces', that states that Spain will play an active role in the European strategy "European Cloud Federation".

A deeper analysis of regulatory trends is made in SCOREwater deliverables D8.4 and D8.5 (which will be uploaded on the SCOREwater website).