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Action Line 2.1 Developing Policies to access and Exploit European Public Sector Information

2.1.1 Background

The public sector collects and produces vast amounts of information, much of which is of interest to citizens and businesses and which can be the raw material for value-added information services produced by the content industry. In the Member States, rules for access to public sector information are very different or in some cases do not exist at all. As the transition to the information society progresses, this situation could become a barrier to full participation by citizens and businesses across Europe. A number of working groups established by the Information Society Forum have identified this as an issue requiring priority action.

2.1.2 Objectives

Developing European policies to access and exploit public sector information for the benefit of citizens, businesses, public administrations and the European Union as such.

Easier access to public sector information relevant to their professional, civic and personal activities, and possibly a greater choice of sources and better quality/price conditions.

Opening new opportunities for businesses in the information market to commercially exploit public sector information at European level and produce value-added multimedia information products and services in fields of commercial interest. For businesses in general it will provide easier access to public sector information of interest in the context of their activities. For public administrations it will create opportunities and a motivation for better information management, improved efficiency and transparency.

Contributing to the overall openness and transparency policy of the European Union.

2.1.3 Actions

Following a number of studies and preliminary discussions, a Green Paper will be drafted, discussed informally with appropriate public sector representatives from all Member states and published by April 1996. This will invite a public debate on all the issues concerned (opportunity and conditions for a right of access to public sector information, respective roles of the public and private sectors, supplementary practical measures for better access, exploitation of related E.U. initiatives). The first responses to this Green Paper will be discussed at the conference on access to public sector information to be held in Stockholm in June 1996. Based on the results of this conference and on further responses to the Green Paper, actions will be decided by the Commission will be implemented in the following years. They could include:

  • legislative proposals,
  • information exchange and co-ordination mechanisms,
  • studies leading to further initiatives

2.1.4 Exploitation of synergy

The development of a public sector information policy requires the widest possible consensus. It is, therefore, necessary to discuss and consult with all relevant public sector actors throughout the whole process. For this regular and extensive consultation procedure the public sector actors will be invited to participate in the Green Paper discussion, updating and follow-up, workshops, conferences and various awareness activities. Moreover, important co-ordination work will be undertaken with related Commission activities in the context of the Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA) programme, telematics applications (especially public sector applications) and transparency, and with the G7 project, Government On-Line.

2.1.5 Expected Results

Actions are expected to lead to a growing consensus between Member States of the importance of the issues and of the need for convergence of national policies.


2.2.1 Background

In a number of Member States practical initiatives are being taken to improve access to public sector information. In the European information society it must be ensured that the relevant public sector information becomes more easily accessible to all European citizens and businesses that may have an interest in such information. Presently, such access is still difficult across the EU, because of lack of transparency, cumbersome procedures and lack of interconnectivity between different national access routes.

2.2.2. Objectives

EU initiatives to improve access to public sector information aim at achieving interoperability based on standards, and transparency to facilitate the free movement of public sector information in the European information society. An important step in this respect is the creation of standard directories on public sector information which are interlinked across the EU to guide interested citizens and companies in identifying and accessing the information

2.2.3. Actions

Initiatives will follow an analysis - development - implementation path requiring permanent co-ordination and dialogue with national public authorities. The process will be supported by consensus-building initiatives and the work of specific task forces for defining and developing concrete solutions. Calls for proposals will identify pilot projects which will address interconnectivity of existing national, regional and local services and resources, as well as collaborative implementation of new services. Particular attention will be given to multilingual solutions.

In particular, systems presently being implemented in the US such as the Government Information Locator Service (GILS) system to improve access to government information, may be a reference for action undertaken by the EU.

Specific EU actions will include:

  • identifying public sector information areas which are of particular interest for the use by citizens and value-added information providers;
  • establishing an inventory of existing public sector information directories;
  • establishing guidelines on the production of interoperable, comparable and user friendly directories;
  • stimulating the development of pan-European public sector information directories in a common format, applying standard access and retrieval protocols, and common methods to identify information resources;
  • encouraging national projects, in particular in LFRs, to establish digital national or regional directories in selected areas.

2.2.4 Exploitation of synergy

The actions will be implemented in close collaboration with national public sector institutions that are operating or are planning to develop and operate public information directories, and in coordination with other related Commission initiatives.

2.2.5 Expected results

This initiative will result in a limited number of interconnected national public sector information directories. It will lay the foundations for rapid growth of such directories and their interconnection, increased transparency, easier access by citizens, etc. These foundations are a necessary condition for the development of a public sector information space in the EU.

ACTION LINE 2.3 Making use of content resources in the public sector

2.3.1 Background

Europe is blessed with a rich stock of content repositories under public sector control such as museums, libraries, copyright and patent deposit systems, educational and training bodies, historical archives and architectural objects. These content repositories need to be mobilised if Europe is to fully exploit these cultural assets commercially and to realise the potential of advanced technologies in support of public sector services. They are central to the Union's strength in the global Information Society and their commercial and strategic potential has already been underlined by a series of deals transferring control over some of them to private companies, not all of which have been European.

Most of the public sector content repositories are available in analogue form and as such are not suited to be used for multimedia information services which operate in a digital environment. They need to be converted to digital format. A similar conversion effort occurred for manuscripts after 1450 when Gutenberg's printing technique had matured, but this was not only different in nature but also in scope.

2.3.2 Objectives

Mobilising public content resources complement actions 2.1 and 2.2 and should ensure that the political, organisational and operational infrastructures which emerge from these actions will be adequately exploited by European players. Detailed inventories of the information available in the different public sector information repositories will be encouraged and interconnected in order to facilitate exploitation of these content resources through value-added services.

2.3.3 Actions

Initial activities will establish an overview of existing public sector information repositories in selected areas, such as geographic information. Selection criteria will include market potential, the existence of common standard formats and the opportunities for integration with intellectual property asset trading systems to facilitate public/private partnerships and transnational applications. Pilot projects meeting these criteria will be stimulated in the areas selected.

2.3.4 Exploitation of synergy

There will be co-ordination with the digitisation and interconnection work taking place both at Member States level and in the context of Commission initiatives.

2.3.5 Expected results

Digitised inventories and their interconnection will support the effective exploitation and trading of public sector information content and will thus lead to increased opportunities to develop pan-European value-added services.



Action line 2.1
  • developing policies to access and exploit European public sector information
Action Line 2.2
  • Linking directories to public sector information
Action Line 2.3
  • Making use of content resources in the public sector

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