The European Commission is set to make a major announcement about the future of the Public Sector Information Directive on Monday. Jonathan Gray from the Open Knowledge Foundation discusses what this might mean for open data in Europe
Approximately one in fourteen people on the planet now live in one of Europe's 27 Member States. There are thousands of local, regional and central government bodies in Europe, which collectively disburse billions and billions of euros on behalf of European citizens every year (over€6,182bn in 2010).
Many of these public bodies collect or generate information relevant to their operations - from the timetables of trains or rubbish collection services, to metrics on schools, universities and hospitals, to databases on carbon emissions, weather patterns, or biodiversity. "How much data?" asks a distant, data-hungry cry. While I'm not sure that this is something that any statistics department has got around to measuring nor something that has yet been subjected to brazen guesstimation, I think it's fairly safe to say: lots and lots.
Much of this data is, of course, private information about citizens, and hence should be handled like Plutonium pellets ("Kept in secure containers, handled as seldom as possible and escorted whenever it has to travel"). And some of it shouldn't see the light of day on national security grounds (at least for a while). But much of it is or should be public: free for all to access, use and benefit from. The information that public bodies collect and use for themselves are often relevant to us.