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The European Union (EU) is making a wealth of data held by the public sector more easily available for reuse as raw material for Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain and other advanced digital technologies.

Earlier this month, the Council adopted new rules on open data and the reuse of public-sector data. This will boost the EU data economy, contribute to the development of a data-based society and stimulate growth and the creation of jobs in all sectors of the economy. Member states will have two years in which to incorporate its provisions into national law after the legal act has entered into force, 20 days after being published in the EU Official Journal.

“Public sector information represents an extraordinary source of data that can contribute to improving the internal market and to the development of new applications for consumers and legal entities. Intelligent data usage, including their processing through artificial intelligence applications, can have a transformative effect on all sectors of the economy”, reads the EU directive.

Bolstering EU’s digital industry

“These rules are a real enabler for artificial intelligence and will help Europe to become a world leader in this crucial area. They will bolster the EU digital industry, especially smaller companies and start-ups, which would not otherwise have access to all the data they need to innovate and expand”, stated Alexandru Petrescu, Romania’s Minister for Communications and the Information Society, President of the Council. The new directive extends the scope of the rules on the reuse of public sector information (PSI) beyond public sector bodies so as to include public undertakings in the transport and utilities sectors.

Six categories of high-value datasets

The directive also introduces the concept of high-value datasets which are to be made available free of charge through an application programming interface (API). The text defines 6 broad categories of high-value datasets:

– Geospatial

– Earth observation and environment

– Meteorological

– Statistics

– Companies and company ownership

– Mobility

The list will be updated through secondary legislation. The rules will cover publicly funded research data that is already available in public repositories. It will also encourage the dissemination of dynamic data, such as real-time weather or transport data. Overall, public sector data will be available either free of charge or at very low cost. In addition, the reform promotes the use of open data, meaning data in open formats that can be freely used and shared for any purpose.