Interview with Tony Lockett, Deputy Head Regional & Urban Policy Communication Unit, European Commission. What is his opinion about open data these days? What are the main challenges and can open data contribute to the quality of life of citizens?
What are the main challenges your organisation is facing with open data the coming years?
Through Cohesion Policy funding, the EU invests approximately €50 billion each year in economic development at the national and regional level (around 34% of the total EU budget). These investments are designed to help Member States and regions reach the Europe 2020 Strategy objectives for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
In order to ensure the effective management of Cohesion Policy Operational Programmes, the Commission needs to be able to communicate data concerning progress towards agreed goals and targets.
A key feature of the reform of EU Cohesion Policy for the 2014-2020 funding period is a reinforced focus on results and performance management. Operational Programmes will include more robust targets and indicators. Member States will provide the Commission with regular reports, including structured data on progress towards these targets. Some of this data is reported to the Commission by Member States. Other data are generated through research and evaluation work carried out by or on behalf of the Commission.
There is a high level of demand for data concerning EU Cohesion Policy from external users (programme managers, researchers, elected representatives, media, civil society …). The Commission needed to find an effective solution to make this data available in a comprehensive, coherent and accessible way. This meant extracting the data from internal systems and providing it to users in formats that conform to current standards with regard to accessibility and re-use.
This is why the Commission set up in 2014 a new Cohesion Policy open data platform.
Can Open Data contribute to the quality of life of citizens? In which way and why is this so important?
It is expected that the Cohesion Policy Open Data platform will offer the following business benefits:
- Demonstrate the impact of EU funding (presenting programme outputs and results in a visual and accessible way)
- Improve performance (tracking programme implementation and showing progress towards targets)
- Raise the Commission’s profile as a source of regional expertise (complementing our internal knowledge management project by providing a tool for communicating our regional expertise to external audiences)
- Increase visibility (responding to demands for data from journalists, researchers and other interested audiences)
- Save staff time (allowing people to access data directly online, rather than providing the information in response to requests)
- Improve transparency (meeting expectations of openness about the use of funding from the public, the media, elected representatives etc…)
- Enhance interactivity and engagement (enabling users to interact with data, create their own visualisations, discuss and provide feedback)