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Towards more open formats for public information

 

Yesterday the committee for Industry, Research and Energy voted in favour of a proposal that should  make the information held by public administratrion in the Member States more accessible for citizens, including for their re-use by interested individuals and businesses.

It has potential for improving the efficiency of public information in the digital world, increase transparency and create new business opportunities. A big source of worry for us appreared in the beginning of the negotiations between the members of the European Parliament that was dealing with the file. They seemed to agree that the public information could be accessible under any format (under the wording "technology neutral"), which would have made possible proprietary formats to proliferate, putting public information under a "business lock" for its access and re-use and thus jeopardising the whole point of the text.

Amelia managed to convince them to whitdraw all the references to technology neutral and replace them by "open format", which will be eventually and where possible chosen for containing public sector information.

Open standards will be used "in so far as possible". The total amount charged by public bodies for the re-use of documents would be limited to the marginal costs inccured for their reproduction, provision and dissemination, which should in principle ensure charges close to zero.  However the conservative majority in the Industry committee managed through confusing and tricky wording to seriously limit in practice the implementation of the marginal costs.

The vote in plenary is foreseen at the beginning of next year.

 

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