The European Commission is proposing to legislate to force all the continent’s public bodies to open up their data for re-use by citizens and private developers, and also wants to give “internet survival packs” to hacktivists challenging repressive regimes.
It is proposing to update a 2003 directive to guarantee that public sector information can be re-used for any purpose including commercial, provided in commonly-used data formats. The commission will start with its own data, which it will make available through a new portal.
“Data is the new gold,” the EC’s digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said at a press conference in Brussels. Specifics on the claim of a massive economic benefit were not detailed, but a spokesperson cited the example of geo-spatial data. Release.
The EC will put up €100 ($133.84/£85.32) million to fund research on data-handling technologies from 2011 to 2013. Existing open data portals include http://opendata.paris.fr.; www.dati.piemonte.it; www.data.gov.uk, www.data.gouv.fr and www.data.overheid.nl.
Separately, Kroes announced a “No Disconnect” internet freedom strategy. “The Arab Spring was a wake-up call for all of us about the global desire for democracy and the possible role technology can play,” Kroes said at a news conference. “Repressive regimes now understand the power of those networks and have tried to turn them off. We must develop and distribute tools to help activists bypass restrictions on their freedom.” Release, keynote.
To head the project, Kroes has enlisted Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who resigned as Germany’s defence minister this March after it was found he copied large parts of his 2006 PhD thesis. German news media have since nicknamed him “Baron Cut-and-Paste” and “Zu Googleberg”. He has fled Germany to live in Connecticut.
“A lot of our potential partners are in the United States,” zu Guttenberg told a news conference. “I’ll be based in the U.S., whenever there is a need to travel I will do so. This is no political comeback. I’m not planning to be back within the next weeks or months to come.”