Art. 7 - by Jedrzej Czarnota, TRILATERAL RESEARCH LTD. (UK)

ENERGIC-OD constructs a brokering framework for unifying various data formats and sources into one big system. Its aim is to make as much geospatial information available to users as possible, as easily as possible. To fully unlock the potential of this innovative framework, the data provided by ENERGIC-OD will come in the open format, where its use and re-use are free of charge and available to all. Such format further bolsters the project’s software architecture (consisting of virtual hubs and APIs), and promotes its adoption by organizations (both public and private), individuals, and other actors (such as professional networks or trade associations). Unfortunately, the problems inherent to open data also rear their ugly head in exploitation of ENERGIC-OD. In this article, we briefly discuss those main challenges and outline how ENERGIC-OD consortium tackles them.

ENERGIC-OD’s approach to geospatial information fits comfortably within European directives and efforts towards making open data more widespread (Carrara et al., 2015a). This of course does not come as a surprise – ENERGIC-OD is funded by European Commission. As such, it aims to overcome the open data challenges preventing the adoption of unrestricted information access. On the European level, the following main challenges to the use of open data have been identified: political, legal, technical, financial, and informational (Carrara et al., 2015b).

Firstly, political barriers relate to the public servants’ perception that open data is ‘just a nice thing to have’. They often fail to see its economic potential (i.e., increasing the market size, creating jobs, improving labour efficiency). Open data tends to rank low on the political agendas of various individuals and institutions. Secondly, legal challenges pertain to the differences in the open data legislation of member states. They are also related to the uncertain stance of public organizations on the use of open license (e.g., the data is protected by strict privacy laws which sit uneasily with open access paradigms). Thirdly, technical problems are those of gaps in interoperability between data formats and sources – a barrier that ENERGIC-OD targets particularly well. Still, organizations (and public organizations in particular) not releasing data in machine-readable formats is a major problem. Financial challenges include the public bodies not having enough money to start publishing open data. Moreover, for many organizations the sales of data are a source of income – and they couldn’t sell open data anymore. Finally, the informational barriers relate to the society’s lack of knowledge about open data available, its types, and what it could be useful for. They are also linked to the overall reluctance of various public departments towards releasing data, and the most valuable and interesting data in particular (that would also significantly stimulate the re-use of open data).

ENERGIC-OD addresses some of those problems, but not all. The technical problems are the main target of the project, and won’t be a challenge anymore in the geospatial information space once the project finishes. ENERGIC-OD’s exploitation and dissemination efforts focus on tackling the financial and informational barriers in particular – by spreading the awareness of various data available, by attracting different private and business actors, as well as by engaging potential open data users across many diverse communities and networks. Similarly, political barriers are also being indirectly addressed by the exploitation effort. Part of the ENERGIC-OD project is to elaborate practical business models, and to show how open data can be effectively harnessed by various actors. Nevertheless, legal challenges will remain a problem throughout the duration of the project and after its completion, as they require a change on the national and European levels, and cannot be directly addressed by the consortium. ENERGIC-OD is designed to work around the legal barriers, but to remove them is out of scope of the project entirely.

All in all, open data is a powerful and radically innovative tool for building informed and entrepreneurial society in Europe. Overcoming its challenges is only a matter of time, as numerousinstitutions and actors from different contexts work on removing them. Ultimately, the widespread uptake of open data will enable unrestricted and seamless access to information, and together with it the rise of informed and democratic society. ENERGIC-OD consortium is proud to be a part of this movement, and is optimistic about the successful implementation of its goals.

Carrara, W., Chan, W.S., Fischer, S., and van Steenbergen, E., (2015a). Creating Value through Open Data. European Data Portal Project. European Commission, Brussels.
Carrara, W., Fischer, S., and van Steenbergen, E., (2015b). Open Data Maturity in Europe 2015. Insights into the European state of play. European Data Portal Project – Insight Report n1. European Commission, Brussels.


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