Supplementary memorandum by Association
for Geographic Information (OS 13(a))
THE EC DG INFORMATION
A EU FRAMEWORK
Comments from the Association for Geographic
Information (AGI) on the DG Information Society working document
Towards a European Union framework for the exploitation of
public sector information published on 21 January 2002. As
part of the consultation process the AGI has alerted its members
to the DG Information Society Consultation document who may respond
in their own right.
1. The Association for Geographic Information
(AGI) registered within the UK is a not-for-profit company limited
by guarantee founded in 1989 (after a House of Lords Committee
of Enquiry1 into geographic information chaired by Lord Chorley)
to represent the interests of all those concerned with geographic
information in the UK. The AGI has about 1,500 members in individual,
corporate and sponsor member categories. It is the largest representative
organisation for the Geographic Information (GI) community in
the UK. The AGI also plays a significant role at the European
and Global level through its membership of the EURopean umbrella
Organisation for Geographic Information (EUROGI).
2. The mission of the AGI is to "maximise
the use of geographic information for the benefit of the citizen,
good governance and commerce".
3. The AGI membership represents a broad
church of organisations and individuals that are users, producers,
service providers or a combination of all three from the public,
private, academic and voluntary sectors.
The AGI membership includes:
Central government departments, Trading
Funds, wholly owned public limited companies, Local government,
and Regional Assemblies. These public sector organisations are
both providers of data and services as well as users of GI is
their own right.
Professional organisations and sector
based representative bodies.
Private sector information companies
eg online information services.
Private sector technology, data and
Non Government Organisations; and
Universities and Research organisations.
As such the views represented by the AGI are
balanced in that they take into account the majority and minority
views of its membership, although not all will be in full agreement
with this response hence the reason the AGI encourages its members
to submit responses in their own right.
4. The AGI welcomes this opportunity to
comment on the DG Information Society working document on a legal
statute that will mandate the framework for the exploitation of
public sector data within the EU.
5. The AGI welcomes and supports the EC
DG Information Society initiative to establish a legal instrument,
which has the objective of establishing a legal framework for
the exploitation of Public Sector Data across the EU. The AGI
is of the opinion that the establishment of such a framework is
well over due.
6. The AGI encourages the EC DG Information
Society to take a much stronger lead with regard to working towards
the establishment of the framework and recommends that member
states be given a set time period in order to comply with the
framework once agreed and introduced, eg five years.
7. The AGI is of the opinion that such a
framework should appear on the EU statute book within 12 to 24
months of the closing date of this consultation.
8. The modernising government initiatives
that are now well advanced within member states have already brought
about positive changes within individual member states. However
each member state is still an information island within the EU.
A framework is urgently required in order to harmonise the access
to, and the reuse of public sector data across Europe. Without
such a framework the higher objectives of the EU including those
of capitalising on the Information Age and the knowledge economy
are unlikely to be achieved at the EU level.
9. Geographic Information plays an important
role not only in achieving seamless government but also a seamless
information society. The information islands referred to in paragraph
eight above impede cross border initiatives. The framework if
it were in existence would assist with such issues that currently
face government, business and the citizen.
10. The AGI is willing to support DG Information
Society through the consultation processes and also to provide
further information on this response if required.
21 February 2002
Question 1:Will the measure proposed in the working
paper contribute to increase the possibilities to re-use public
sector information resources throughout Europe and thereby enhance
employment and economic growth?
Yesthe measures set out in the working
paper are a good starting point. However these fall short of what
is required and need to be strengthened in the following areas:
The regulatory regime should be strengthened
and broaden from that proposed in Section 12 and 13 of the draft
instrument. The instrument should ensure that at a minimum the
regulatory authority reports at least annually to the parliaments
at the European and member state levels. The report should include
recommendations for action where the instrument has not been implemented,
is being abused, is being circumvented within member states. The
regulatory framework should cover at a minimum:
the framework is adhered to between
member states and within member states;
that public sector wholly owned trading
companies are acting on a level playing field with private sector
that all member states have implemented
EU legislation to a similar level in the areas of data protection,
privacy, freedom of information;
that member states including EU institutions
do not give themselves greater protection on IPR over and above
the legal statutes that protect the IPR of private sector companies;
eg crown copyright in the UK;
that business and citizens can take
their case to the EU data regulatory authority in cases where
a member state regulatory authority is either:
only provides regulation in certain
areas eg in the UK the HMSO regulatory authority that comes into
force on the 1 April 2002 only applies to Crown copy material
within departments and does not regulate other parts of the public
sector ie local government, regional government, government trading
funds, wholly owned government companies;
trading practices within the public
sector including setting of data specifications that manipulate
the market either directly or indirectly;
the issues related to cross subsidisation
of one data set by another data set especially by public sector
trading funds or companies.
ensuring member states do not avoid
the framework by including data exclusion clauses within other
legislation eg the Freedom of Information Act, the Human Rights
Ensuring core data sets that are
in the national interest of each member state and the EU included
within the framework. If this is not the case then initially the
framework should ensure as a minimum the regulatory function should
be strengthened and made mandatory with regard to such data sets.
Question 2:What should the exact scope of any
instrument in terms of public sector organisation and types of
information covered (section 2)?
The instrument should ensure all parts of the
public sector are included within the framework from the neighbourhood
through to the local, regional, national and European levels.
Where the definition of public sector as a minimum includes all
parts of the public sector that report to:
a publicly elected person;
a group of publicly elected people,
eg such as Councils, Assemblies Parliaments;
a central government department which
itself reports to or is headed by a publicly elected person;
where another public sector body
appoints the managing authority of a body that itself reports
to a publicly elected person.
receive public sector funding, however
small, to undertake activities that relate to data in the national
claim to be acting in the national
advise government on policy related
to data, information and its use within the public sector and
they also sell data and information on the open market.
Where in the above context a publicly elected
person is a politician.
All information generated by the public sector
either directly or indirectly through a transparent open procurement
process should be covered by the instrument.
Data licensed for use within the public sector
from a private sector data provider that operates on the open
market with such data should be excluded.
The provisions within the instrument should
ensure that the public sector itself is not inhibited from exploiting
the best techniques and information technology to undertake its
remit, eg the use of licensed data together with public sector
data in a geographical information system providing such uses
are for its own use and not for competing with the private sector.
Question 3: How should the conflict between what
is proposed and the re-use of information protected by intellectual
property rights be resolved?
Can a distinction between raw data and added value
material be made operational?
The AGI is of the opinion that the IPR relationships
that apply to public sector data are no different to those in
other sectors of society. For example the private sector which
use licences to protect IPR and the law on the statute book either
within the member state or at the UE level. The public sector
should not be given special status otherwise the playing field
will not be level.
The information age initiatives are bringing
about radical change to data holdings. For example core reference
data sets underpin the information age. This is especially the
case where such data sets are definitive and sustainable and are
constructed and maintained in a transparent way. As such core
data sets become well established and widely used a simplification
of data sets will be enabled and occur. As this transition becomes
more apparent data sets within the public sector will more closely
conform to the definition of raw data rather than added value
data. A direct consequence of this is likely to lower the costs
of data acquisition and maintenance, improve the quality and reliability
of the data, which collectively will encourage the exploitation
of public sector, data sets for reuse. The legal framework should
ensure that it supports this process. The AGI would be willing
to participate in consultation forums with the DG Information
Society or in one to one meetings to develop this area further.
The AGI is of the opinion that a distinction
between raw and value added data can be made operational which
also takes into account the point made above.
The AGI also is of the opinion that core reference
data sets should be defined and included in the legal framework.
Question 4: Are the measures proposed in this
working paper to ensure transparency of conditions for re-use
the right ones to facilitate a broad re-use of public sector information
in the Information Society?
Paragraph 2 of section 8 is too loose. The conditions
for the re-use must not just be clearly and unambiguously expressed
but also ensure that they are not restrictive. For example the
conditions set should not be used as a mechanism to avoid data
leakage, or the possibility that the public sector may offer a
competitive alternative by acquiring and reusing the data.
Transparency is also required on procurement
processes related to data and information and to software and
applications that are claimed to be compliant with a government
adopted standard ie in order to encourage data interoperability
member states may introduce mandatory government standards and/or
the use of core reference data sets. For example a street, property,
Transparency is also required as to how the
public sector itself uses public sector data especially within
public sector trading organisations or wholly owned companies
that use public sector data within their data products and then
compete in the market place ie unfair tradingnot a level