In a past couple of years there has been a lot of improvements in EU legislature regarding Freedom of Information and the Right to Re-use Open Data. Freedom of Information in Croatia worked like this: as a citizen you needed some information and assumed i.e. that Ministry of Administration has it. After filing an official request, Data Official has 15 days to answer. Very 20th century, right? That’s why European Union pushed for Right to Re-use Open Data: so all this is already available online, thus eliminating the need for interaction with public bodies and waiting for 15 days (if you are lucky to stumble upon a friendly Data Official).
For those of you new in this area, open data is all data public bodies (state and local) gather during their work. This of course excludes personal information or country’s military secrets…. You get the point. To give you few examples: a list of addresses and coordinates of all kindergartens in one city, financial data, lists of all public bodies, demographic statistics etc. There is massive amount of this data, and in order for it to be re-usable (meaning: so that entrepreneurs, NGOs and generally citizens can implement said data in their apps) it has to be ‘machine-readable’ (a format that software can read). Sounds complicated? Not really, it just means .pdf, .docx, and pictures are a big no-no, and .csv is very welcome. To get back to my point, Data Officials in public bodies (with background in law or management) had no idea what .csv was, let alone converting data form data base sources to ‘machine-readable’ sets and publishing it on Croatia’s new Open Data Portal (data.gov.hr).
Especially stunned by this new regulation was Ministry of Culture. They have a lot of cool and useful data and were experiencing a lot of pressure form citizens and NGOs to comply with new EU Directives and respective national laws. Their data was all published online as lists or search apps, but if you are a software and not a human being- quite useless.
In a time of panic mixed with excitement for the possibility of being the most transparent Ministry in Croatia, OpenDataStore came to help. In a few weeks time, we had a solution called ODS DataStage. ODS stands for OpenDataStore- our platform created for giving open data true power and alleviating communication with citizens to another level.
ODS DataStage is a really simple and intuitive web application that connects with data sources, converts data from various data bases to .csv files and launches them on government’s open data portal. It can be implemented after doing an analysis on what kind of data public body in question has, and carefully separating what cannot be published. After initial setup, Data Officials use it to track recent changes on data sources and update accordingly, add new data or delete if not relevant any more. When using ODS DataStage public bodies have a clear and detailed view of their datasets. The app itself is located in Microsoft Azure environment which makes it easily scalable and perfect for avoiding additional infrastructure costs.
Ministry of Culture were the first to implement this solution, but many other public bodies showed interest and are in process of adopting ODS DataStage. We are thrilled to see public bodies in Croatia wanting to be more transparent and entrepreneurial-friendly. Since we are talking about European legislation, this law is exists in all 28 countries which makes it easy to slightly modify it if needed and offer it to public bodies all over EU.
At Omega Software, we are very excited about where open data is going. Our strong belief is that governments should use new technologies to be transparent on a new level. The state of technology certainly allows it, so why not use it? We see open data as an area where
a. politics with public administration,
b. civil society and
c. private sector
come together in building foundations for open, creative and more productive future.