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Open Data Euskadi: Five Lessons in 12 Years Opening Data

Open Data Euskadi: 5 lecciones en 12 años abriendo datos públicos

Imanol Argüeso Epelde|

In April 2010, the Government of Euskadi (Basque Country) Spain launched an open data initiative called Open Data Euskadi. It soon became a reference for many public administrations that were beginning to consider opening their data.

Since then a lot has happened in the open data universe. We may not have gotten everything right, but all the lessons we’ve learned have allowed us to consolidate it as a sustainable open data initiative for 12 years.

We would like to open up and share some of the lessons we have learned so that other public open data initiatives can learn and reuse our experience. These are the five lessons we want to highlight:

Quality vs. quantity

In 2010, before starting the Open Data Euskadi project, we talked to some open data users who encouraged us to publish as much data as possible as soon as possible. At that time the priority was to publish all those datasets that we had and we did it in a few months. The more data the better.

However, experience has taught us that more open data is not synonymous with more reuse. It is more effective to focus efforts on publishing with a purpose. This includes:

  1. Identifying the data most in demand and the data that allows connecting the dots in the organization and in society.
  2. Open and improve the quality of those priority datasets (e.g. offer multiple formats, APIs, unique data, etc.).

It is therefore a matter of first analyzing what data is important and its potential uses, then measuring the impact of our projects and taking appropriate corrective action. 

Federalize to help the search

Citizens do not know which office or public administration is in charge of certain areas of public life. They do not know which administrative level (municipal, provincial, or regional) is responsible for a data set. 

Open Data Euskadi federalizes open data catalogs of the provincial councils and the city councils of the three Basque capitals. This means that the data sets of the provincial and municipal councils can also be located from the Open Data Euskadi catalog. This, in turn, also does so with the initiative of the General State Administration, which is connected to the portal of the European Union.

Get to know your reusers and listen to them

In the initial stages of setting up open data initiatives, we tend to focus our efforts on supply, but it is vital to know the demand as well. To do this we must look for different ways to approach and characterize the community of reusers. There is no single path to achieve this; creativity is our ally. For example:

– Open Data Euskadi has been organizing the Euskadi Open Data Awards in collaboration with the provincial councils and the city councils of the three capitals of the autonomous community since 2015. The main objective of organizing this type of competition is to raise awareness of open data in society, but it also allows us to get to know the reusers better: what data they use most, how they use it, what their needs are, etc. 

– The commitment to open data in the 2018-2020 action plan served to unite citizens, reusers, and representatives of the different Basque institutional levels in a joint project. This project made it possible to identify the datasets most in demand by Basque citizens and to work on their openness from both the reuser and end-user visions of the data.

The organizational model guarantees the sustainability of the initiative

The initial launch of an open data portal is an important milestone, but changes in the administration must be considered to ensure the sustainability of the initiative in the long term. 

An organizational model that ensures the sustainability of the initiative and is effective in a cross-cutting manner should strive for several features:

– The relevance of political momentum to push not only the launch but also the subsequent evolution of the initiative.

– The need for a sectoral role in each department or entity that serves as a link between the body responsible for opening data and those ultimately responsible for the data.

– Involve the entire organization in change management through training and communication activities.

Data openness is only the tip of the iceberg

An important part of our efforts in data openness projects is dedicated to tasks related to data governance in our organization, and data openness turns out to be the last step that takes up a limited part of the resources and time of the project.

Data openness is a necessary and relevant data output but it should be framed in a framework of data governance in public administrations, where open data is just another element of the gear.

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