Following the path of digitalization in Slovenia and Europe: Open Data: What is Open Data, and why is it important?

Both individuals and organisations face a world that is increasingly ruled by data. As Rok Žontar has previously written in the article World of data: where the faster beat the bigger, we are encountering more and more data from many different sources, mainly due to digitalisation.

When processing and analysing this mountain of data, we must pay special attention to the accuracy and transparency of that data. In recent years, there have been many disputes between the public and other types of organisations that have been suspected of reaching too deeply into personal data.

This is where the so-called open data comes in. We will almost certainly not reduce the amount of data in the future, so the best alternative is to make this data open to everyone and, therefore, transparent and verifiable.

What does the term “open data” mean? The European Commission describes open data as data that anyone can access, reuse, and share. Governments, businesses, and individuals can use such data to achieve social, economic, and environmental benefits.

It is essential to understand that open data becomes valuable when available in a common, machine-readable, and understandable format. In addition, data must also be licensed. However, the license must allow people to use the data in any way, including transforming, combining and sharing it with others, including for commercial means. If the data is licensed strictly for non-commercial purposes, it is no longer open.

Open Data can bring tremendous benefits to society. Photo source: Reuters.
Open Data can bring tremendous benefits to society. Photo source: Reuters.

.One of the features of open data is that it must be free. However, this does not mean that access to it must be free. The data collection and publication of useful data and database maintenance can be a cost based on which we may be charged for access.

In most cases, however, these fees are negligible, as, in principle, they should not be higher than the actual cost of maintaining and reproducing specific amounts of data.

As already mentioned, open data can bring considerable benefits to businesses, governments, and companies if used correctly. In the case of public services, it can help with transparency, as the government can thus provide evidence that its budget has been spent appropriately to achieve established goals.

Capgemini SE, headquartered in Paris, is a multinational information technology (IT) services and consulting company. At the end of last year, they surveyed the level of open data maturity across European countries.

Within the Member States, improvements were recorded in 2021 across all four open data assessment dimensions – policy, impact, portal, and quality – with an overall maturity score of 81%, an increase of 3 percentage points from the 2020 results.

Countries were divided into four groups: “Beginners”, “Followers”, “Fast-trackers”, and “Trend-setters”. In 2005, 63 per cent of European members were labelled “Beginners”, while no country could be classified as a “Trend-setter”. These figures have changed significantly. As early as 2015, 31 per cent of countries were labelled as “Trend-setters”, while only 19 per cent were still “Beginners”.

France is currently Europe’s most mature open data nation, with a score of 97.5%. Also noteworthy is the peak performance among countries outside the European Union. For example, Norway jumped from beginner to fast-tracker, and Ukraine became a trend-setter in 2021.

European Open Data Directive

In 2019, the European Parliament adopted a directive on “open data and the re-use of public sector information”, widely known as the PSI directive a vital part of the European Union’s legal framework and controls open data and their re-use.

Assessing the level of open data maturity across European countries. Source: Open Data Maturity Report 2021, Capgemini SE.
Assessing the level of open data maturity across European countries. Source: Open Data Maturity Report 2021, Capgemini SE.

At Capgemini, they found that several Member States had already completed or were in the process of transposing the directive into their national laws.

As explained by the European Commission, the new rules stimulate the publishing of dynamic data and the uptake of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), regulate “legal loopholes” that currently allow public bodies to charge more than the marginal costs of dissemination for the re-use of their data and strengthen the transparency requirements for public-private agreements involving public sector information, avoiding exclusive arrangements.

“In fact, the creation of impact with the help of open data can be considered the ultimate goal of open data efforts across Europe”, said Laura van Knippenberg, a researcher at Capgemini Invent and co-author of the Open Data Maturity Report.

“We want to have the right policies in place, advanced portals available to find data and foster interaction between publishers and re-users, and we want this data to be of such a quality that re-use is made easier so that in the end, impact – whether social, economic or environmental – can be created.”

The official portal for European data

In the spring of 2021, a special portal ( was launched within the European Union to collect and review all European open data.

The principal function of the European Data Portal is to provide a single point of access for public data sources across Europe, representing more than a million data sets from 36 countries, 6 European institutions and 79 other EU bodies and agencies.

The official portal for European data. Source: Screenshot.
The official portal for European data. Source: Screenshot.

It also seeks to support European institutions and Member States in setting up national open data portals, training, and consultancy to improve, sustain, and document data publishing practices.

Open Data is all around us

Data generated by the public sector is a public good, said Peter Geršak, State Secretary at the Ministry of Public Administration, at the event entitled “Open Data Day 2022: With the effective use of open data to greater innovation”, organised in March by the Open Data Hub of Slovenia (OPSI Hub) together with partners Technology Park Ljubljana d.o.o., Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, Ministry of Public Administration, and the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Digital Transformation.

It is imperative to recognise the value of open data, as it is found all around us, and its re-use contributes to broader societal goals, transparency, and success.

Research Open Data

At the event, Barbara Rovere, a researcher at the Faculty of Economics, explained that we know two types of open data: public data and research data. Research data is mainly dealt with by scientists, who obtain it from a multitude of data sources in the form of numerical data, texts, laboratory notes, and the like.

She also touched upon whether, given their usefulness, all types of research data are suitable for opening. Problems arise when it comes to protecting privacy or national security. She said, however, that regardless of concerns, opening research data is essential as funding sources and scientific research require it.

Practical examples of Open Data

In the end, however, even such a great idea does not come in handy if we cannot practically prove its usefulness.

We have already mentioned the European Open Data Portal. With a few clicks, we can find data from various fields, such as economics and finance, culture and education, energy, environment, health, transport, and many others.

An example is the Consolidated list of persons, groups and entities subject to EU financial sanctions, which includes all individuals and organisations against whom the European Union has imposed sanctions, such as the complete freezing of assets for one reason or another.

Another open database is run by the World Health Organization, where we can monitor health statistics from all 194 Member States.

Depending on the needs, we can look through datasets by topics, categories, indicators and countries. The desired data can then be transferred into Excel, and APIs are also available within the database.

 Event Open Data Day. Source: Technology Park Ljubljana.
Event Open Data Day. Source: Technology Park Ljubljana.

At the event mentioned above, Matevž Pesek, from the Faculty of Computer and Information Science, Ljubljana, presented the application, with the help of which we can quickly find a free parking lot, bus schedule, or location for picking up a car enrolled in “carsharing”. The application therefore combines and uses publicly available open data.

Nika Mesner presented the services of the company Arvio, where they exclusively use open real estate and spatial data to develop products and services in real estate and the energy industry. With open data, they can reach a full range of information solutions and services to support real estate professionals throughout their business.

Never in history has there been such an amount of Open Data as there is today. Individuals, organisations, businesses, and national and local authorities must make full use of this to progress and improve our quality of life.

Author: Marko Želko

Keywords: Open Data, research, European Data Portal, EU Directive


This article is part of joint project of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and the Anton Korošec Institute (INAK) Following the path of digitalization in Slovenia and Europe. This project receives funding from the European Parliament. 

The information and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union institutions/Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies/ Anton Korošec Institute. Organizations mentioned above assume no responsibility for facts or opinions expressed in this article or any subsequent use of the information contained therein.