Chapter 5. Opening up government data in Sweden: User engagement and value co-creation

This chapter discusses the importance of opening up government data to drive forward digital innovation inside and outside the public sector. It focuses on the governance framework for open data in Sweden, including the institutional, policy, funding and regulatory frameworks. It uses the results for Sweden in the 2017 editions of the Open, Useful and Re-usable data (OURdata) Index to assess the state of open government data in Sweden and provide policy recommendations to the country in relation to data availability, accessibility and reuse.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

Introduction

Sweden’s commitment to move forward digital government in the country, backed up by the creation of the new Agency for Digital Government (DIGG), is proof of its willingness to advance the digital transformation of the public sector. In this context, open government data is one of the DIGG’s areas of work (see Chapter 2). The DIGG’s objective is to promote data-driven innovation as well as access to and reuse of open data.

Sweden enjoys of a long-standing culture of public sector transparency dating back to the 18th century. However, it faces the challenge to advance government openness in order to take a proactive stand in relation to the publication of government data with a strategic and problem-solving approach.

Results from the 2017 edition of the OECD Open, Useful and Re-usable data (OURdata) Index (Figure 5.1) reflect how Sweden is lagging behind in terms of open government data in comparison to other OECD member and partner countries. Sweden ranks below the OECD average. There is a need to draw upon the value of open government data to build a basis for a data-driven public sector, business and civic innovation in order to move from ambition to action and to place the open data ecosystem at the core of these efforts.

Figure 5.1. 2017 OECD Open, Useful, Reusable Government Data Index (OURdata)
Figure 5.1. 2017 OECD Open, Useful, Reusable Government Data Index (OURdata)

Note: Data for Hungary, Iceland and Luxembourg are not available.

Source: OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0.

The governance framework for open data in Sweden

Institutional framework

The current model for open government data in Sweden results from the recurring shift of roles and responsibilities related to digital government between the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation (MoE).

In 2011, responsibility for e-government was moved from the MoF to the MoE. As a result, the promotion of open government data (OGD) (as a driver of business innovation) was also moved to the MoE under the leadership of Vinnova (the Swedish innovation agency).

The responsibilities in terms of public sector information – from a legal and policy-making perspective – were kept within the MoF and those for OGD were moved back to the same ministry in 2016. Also in 2016, the promotion of open data efforts across the public sector was moved from Vinnova (under the MoE) and integrated into the mandate of the National Archives (Riksarkivet) within the Ministry of Culture.

The mandate of the National Archives relevant to open data was meant to cover the period from 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2018. These responsibilities have now been transferred to the new digitalisation agency, which launched its activities in September 2018.

By taking this decision, Sweden joined a group of other OECD countries with similar governance approaches and/or public sector cultural background. For instance, in Finland, the responsibilities and leadership for open data are under the Ministry of Finance. In Denmark, this role is shared between the Agency of Digitisation within the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Business, Industry and Financial Affairs. In other OECD countries such as Australia, France, Mexico, Portugal and the United Kingdom, these responsibilities have been placed within the centre of government (e.g. the Office of the President, Council of Ministers), therefore providing the open data policy with high-level political support (Table 5.1).

In Sweden, the National Archives’ mandate was more oriented towards providing technical support with a focus on producing policy outputs in terms of data publication (see Section 5.3) rather than on strategic matters. Also, the instability in terms of institutional governance (see Chapter 2) has led to a lack of clear and sound leadership, which has resulted in the absence of a clear vision for open data.

In interviews with stakeholders, the OECD found evidence that the Ministry of Finance itself did not fully internalise the value of open data despite its discourse on digital innovation and data-driven government. This results in a strong focus on data publication as a targeted policy outcome rather than as a means to solving policy challenges.

While it is necessary to ensure that assistance and capacity building efforts are sustained once the promotion and co-ordination of open data efforts is transferred to the new digitalisation agency, the vacuum in terms of strategic leadership needs to be tackled.

During the OECD mission to Stockholm in November 2017, there was general agreement among public agencies on the need to strengthen institutional leadership to steer efforts in this field, and to develop a consistent and coherent vision of open data’s potential value across the administration. These are propitious conditions for open data to flourish in Sweden.

While some OECD countries have tackled this leadership gap by creating chief data officer positions as part of their governance structures, it is not clear how such a one-person governance leadership model would work in Sweden in light of its relatively strong and very independent public agencies and its consensus-based culture. This would require defining a clear line between a strategic role related to the definition of policy and regulatory instruments (e.g. standards, the publication of specific data taxonomies) supporting some common actions and those that would require taking a collaborative approach under a clear inclusive leadership (e.g. a steering committee for open data).

It is also necessary to move co-ordination forward and enable collaboration under the leadership of the new agency and in line with central policy goals. This would require using the consensus-based culture of the public sector and the front-running role of some of the more advanced agencies in terms of data initiatives to facilitate policy ownership and adoption across the broader public sector.

Table 5.1. Location within government of the institution/authority responsible for formulating the open government data strategy/policy
OECD member and partner countries

Central/federal executive/cabinet office

Central/federal ministry of public administration (or similar)

Central/federal Ministry of Communications and Technology (or similar)

Australia

Austria

Belgium

N/A

N/A

N/A

Canada

Chile

Czech Republic

Denmark

N/A

N/A

N/A

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Ireland

Israel

Italy

Japan

Korea

Latvia

Mexico

Netherlands

New Zealand

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Slovak Republic

N/A

N/A

N/A

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Turkey

United Kingdom

Colombia

Lithuania

Peru

Source: OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0.

The OECD also found evidence of the lack of general knowledge and awareness on what open data is within co-ordination bodies such as the eSAM. The responsibilities, composition and expertise of these bodies and their sub-groups should be reconsidered in terms of their role within the framework of open data policies (Box 5.1).

Box 5.1. Inter-institutional and multi-stakeholder co-ordination bodies for open data across OECD countries

Austria

The “Cooperation OGD Austria” working group is an informal body consisting of representatives from the public sector, academia and citizens’ interest groups. The working group was responsible for developing standards and procedure models and identifying good practices in the domains of open data standards, quality, prioritisation and international knowledge sharing. The results of this working group are filed for formal acceptance to the Working Group for the Federal, Municipal, Town and Village Level, which is in charge of working on e-government related standards. The working group issues binding recommendations for all levels of government in Austria.

Ireland

The governance structure for open data in Ireland includes an Open Data Governance Board with representatives from business, academia and civil society. Key stakeholders such as businesses, civil society representatives, researchers, library professionals and other public bodies are invited to the Open Data Governance Board’s meetings to discuss open data issues. There is also a Public Bodies Working Group with membership from public bodies and government departments with a keen interest or already working in the open data area. Both groups meet on a regular basis. The Open Data Unit within Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform co-ordinates the activities of the two group and holds bilateral meetings with individual public bodies.

Korea

The 2016 Open Data Law created the Public Data Strategy Committee to co-ordinate the Korean government’s major policies and plans concerning public data and to inspect and evaluate the status of implementation. The committee is jointly chaired by the Prime Minister and an expert in open data designated by the President. The law also established a working committee under the jurisdiction of the Strategy Committee. The working committee assesses agenda items prior to their submission to the Strategy Committee, and works on items delegated by the Strategy Committee. Expert groups may be established under the jurisdiction of the working committee to assist it on delegated topics.

France

The Etalab (the task force in charge of open data within the Office of the Prime Minister) deployed an open data network across all central ministries in France. This network holds monthly meetings to co-ordinate the inter-ministerial open data work and objectives.

United Kingdom

The Government Digital Service Data Steering Group has strategic oversight of the use and management of governments’ data, both inside and outside the public sector, and promoting open data and the development of data skills in the public sector. The Steering Group is a multi-stakeholder group made up of representatives from the central government, local governments and the private sector. The work of the Steering Group was complimented by the Data Leaders Network, which co-ordinates activity at the level of government departments.

Source: OECD (2018a), Open Government Data Report: Enhancing Policy Maturity for Sustainable Impact, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264305847-en with data from the OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0.

Policy funding

While the creation of the new digitalisation agency is expected to help move open data forward in Sweden, the empowerment and policy levers it will have play a key role in this regard (see Chapter 2). Indeed, open data is expected to be granted ring-fenced funds for 2018-20 (roughly EUR 2 million per year). This funding would be both a political and policy statement from the Swedish government in relation to its willingness to renew its vision and commitment for open data.

Recent OECD work on open data (see OECD [2018a] and Table 5.2) shows that this is not a common practice among OECD countries, therefore creating a window of opportunity to use these funds to deliver quick wins in the short and medium term, but also to build a solid culture for open data in the long run.

Policy framework

In Sweden, open data can instead be better understood more as a kludge of – often isolated and silo-driven – open data initiatives developed by a small group of public agencies (see Section 5.3) than a whole-of-government effort.

Results from the OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0 (2017) showed that, together with four other countries, Sweden is one of the few OECD member and partner countries that does not have a formal open data policy in place. While the acknowledgement of open data as a key element of data-driven innovation in the Digital First agenda helps to address this issue, under the leadership of the new digitalisation agency, the challenge for the Swedish government will be to move from goals to strategic and coherent actions and policy ownership across the broader public sector and the external open data ecosystem.

Some OECD countries have opted for the development of formal strategies and action plans for open data in order to clarify and define a common vision, set a coherent and common path for open data initiatives, and align efforts.

For instance, in Ireland, the Open Data Unit (a body within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) developed Ireland’s Open Data Strategy 2017-2022 as an effort to align open data efforts across the public sector under one whole-of-government vision and mission for open data. The Irish Open Data Strategy was developed in collaboration with actors from the civil society, academia and the private sector, and is thus an opportunity to also map and further engage with new actors of the open data ecosystem. Additionally, the strategy includes a specific implementation plan highlighting action, roles and timelines, thereby contributing not only to the operationalisation of the open data policy, but also to government accountability.

Table 5.2. Open government data policy funding models across OECD member and partner countries

Government assigns its own line of financing to the open government data (OGD) strategy/policy

Funding from other public sector institutions to fund the OGD policy/strategy but funding is not regular

Government provides funding to other public sector institutions to implement their OGD initiatives

Each public sector institution finances its specific OGD initiatives

Australia

Austria

Belgium

Canada

Chile

Czech Republic

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Ireland

Israel

Italy

Japan

Korea

Latvia

Mexico

Netherlands

New Zealand

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Slovak Republic

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Turkey

United Kingdom

Colombia

Lithuania

Peru

● Yes; ○ No.

Sources: OECD (2018a), Open Government Data Report: Enhancing Policy Maturity for Sustainable Impact, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264305847-en, with data from OECD (2016), “OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0”, www.oecd.org/gov/2016-OECD-Survey-on-Open-Government-Data-3.0.pdf, Question 22. Countries providing a response to the question: Please indicate how OGD is funded in your country.

Figure 5.2. Availability of open data policies across OECD member and partner countries
Figure 5.2. Availability of open data policies across OECD member and partner countries

Note: Based on information provided by 31 OECD countries and 3 country partners: Colombia, Lithuania and Peru.

Source: OECD Survey on Open Government Data 3.0. (2017): Section 2, Question 1. Countries providing a response to the question: Does the central/federal government currently have a single open government data (OGD) strategy or policy in place?

The Polish Open Public Data Programme is a five-year strategy addressed to governmental public sector bodies and the main instrument for the open data policy. The programme is a diagnosis for open data in the public sector and indicates key tasks that should be followed by public sector bodies to move forward the open data policy, inter alia: the publication of specific datasets that should be available through the Polish open data portal (danepubliczne.gov.pl), guidelines on data accessibility (formats, metadata) and the need of setting institutional roles (called open data officers). The United Kingdom 2012 open data white paper provides an earlier example. It sets the business case for open government data efforts in the country underlying ongoing and future actions implemented by the UK government.

Legal and regulatory framework

While access to public sector information as a citizens’ right is well anchored in the Swedish public sector ethos, such a positive culture risks becoming a legacy with a negative impact on the overall effort to advance open government data in Sweden. For example, open data is not yet fully conceived as a proactive and dynamic government policy, but rather as the reactive and passive response of the government to the right of citizens to request public sector information.

This is not endemic to Sweden. Across OECD countries, open data is frequently understood as an evolution from or a sub-element of government transparency. Freedom of information acts have been used as the legal basis for open government data across OECD member and partner countries. Results from the OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0 show that 18 out of 21 OECD member and partner countries report the use of these instruments as the main legal basis for open data (not including Sweden).

The 2010 Law on the Re-use of Public Administration Documents stands as the most relevant legal instrument in terms of open data in Sweden (see Swedish Government [2010]). As such, the law implements European regulations (such as the EU Directive on the Re-use of Public Sector Information, known as the PSI Directive)1 into Swedish law. Yet, the lack of a national strategic vison for open data over recent years has led to a passive state where open data is indeed reactive and the result of extrinsic factors (such as EU regulations) rather than high-level political will and clear policy goals.

While the new European Open Data and Public Sector Information Directive2 (2019) is expected to scale up the discourse in terms of openness by default (open data published free of charge) and automated data sharing through APIs, Sweden will still confront a challenging reality in terms of creating impact from open data, and this beyond the mere adoption of any new EU regulations into national law.

Sweden is struggling to balance the need and demand for a stronger government role in terms of digital government and open data with the independent and autonomous role of agencies in terms of policy implementation. The Swedish government faces the challenge of exploring how to use hard levers such as laws and regulations to define mandatory actions to be implemented by agencies while drawing upon the collaborative culture within the Swedish public sector to achieve coherent policy results (see Chapter 2).

A few OECD countries such as France, Germany and Korea have taken steps to regulate open data as part of specific laws on digitalisation, e-government and open data itself (Table 5.3). These efforts have aimed to make a clear distinction between mandatory actions required by law and discretionary ones (e.g. recommendations issued by specific public bodies). Experience in these countries shows that laws also help support the sustainability of the open data policy in the long run.

In other cases like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, national governments have opted for the publication of executive and/or presidential decrees as an effort to define and back up mandatory actions.

Open data as a platform for public value co-creation

OECD principles for digital and open governments encourage policy actions aimed to sustain the publication and reuse of open government data.

The 2014 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Digital Government Strategies promotes governments’ adoption of strategic principles for greater public sector openness, inclusiveness and accountability, and stakeholder engagement and participation as inherent elements of digital government strategies (including open government data). Principle 3 of the Recommendation also highlights the need of balancing the timely publication of accessible government data with managing the risks of data misuse.

Open data can be used to build a bridge between the use of technology and data for the achievement of policy goals, and to contribute to business and civic innovation. Open data enables governments as platforms for public value creation in collaboration with the open data ecosystem.

Table 5.3. Key legal and regulatory instruments on open government data across selected countries

Argentina1

Brazil2

France3

Germany4

Korea5

Mexico6

Peru7

United States8

Requires explicitly the publication of open data in a machine-readable format and in open format with their associated metadata

Demands the publication and update of an open data catalogue for all institutions

Provides a taxonomy of datasets to be published in priority

Mandates a national chief data officer

Mandates institutional chief data officers within all public sector institutions

Mandates the appointment of public officials in charge of data publication

Requires the publication of open data plans by public sector institutions

Includes requirements on funding of the open data strategy and/or open data initiatives

Includes requirements to monitor the implementation of open data plans/strategy and/or open data initiatives

Requires stakeholder engagement to promote the reuse of open government data and/or the creation of an ecosystem of open data users

Notes. ● Yes, available in law; ■ Yes, available in a decree; ▲ Yes, available in other instruments (implementation guidelines, recommendations etc.); ○ Not available.

The data presented do not take into consideration freedom of information acts.

1. For Argentina, more information is available at: http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/215000-219999/218131/norma.htm and http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/255000-259999/257755/norma.htm.

2. For Brazil, more information is available at: http://planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_Ato2015-2018/2016/Decreto/D8777.htm.

3. For France, more information is available at: www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do;jsessionid=AE6CD34C644E37D99FD9D1C23BC3F98E.tplgfr38s_2?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000033202746&categorieLien=id and www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000029463482&categorieLien=id and www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000024072788.

4. For Germany, more information is available at: www.gesetze-im-internet.de/egovg/__12a.html.

5. For Korea, more information is available at: http://law.go.kr/engLsSc.do?menuId=0&subMenu=5&query=%EA%B3%B5%EA%B3%B5%EB%8D%B0%EC%9D%B4%ED%84%B0%EC%9D%98%20%EC%A0%9C%EA%B3%B5%20%EB%B0%8F%20%EC%9D%B4%EC%9A%A9%20%ED%99%9C%EC%84%B1%ED%99%94%EC%97%90%20%EA%B4%80%ED%95%9C%20%EB%B2%95%EB%A5%A0#liBgcolor0.

6. For Mexico, more information is available at: www.dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5382838&fecha=20/02/2015 and www.dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5397117&fecha=18/06/2015.

7. For Peru, more information is available at: www.minedu.gob.pe/gobierno-abierto/pdf/ds-n-016-2017-pcm.pdf and http://sgp.pcm.gob.pe/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Guia-Rapida-ADG.pdf

8. For the United States, data refer to the H.R.1770 – OPEN Government Data Act bill. More information available at: www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1770/text.

Source: OECD (2018a), Open Government Data Report: Enhancing Policy Maturity for Sustainable Impact, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264305847-en.

The OECD OURdata Index benchmarks the definition and implementation of open data policies across OECD member and partner countries. It is composed of three core pillars measuring: 1) the availability of open data (e.g. the definition of an open by default policy and user consultation for data publication); 2) its accessibility (e.g. the publication of accompanying metadata); and 3) governments’ support to spur data reuse.

Open government data availability and accessibility in Sweden

Pillars 1 (data availability), 2 (data accessibility) and 3 (data reuse) of the 2017 OECD OURdata Index measure policy actions implemented by countries to advance open data efforts across the broad public sector. Pillars 1 and 2 specifically focus on setting the right context in order to help institutions prepare for data publication and ensure the usefulness of OGD for users.

Results for Pillar 1 of the 2017 OURdata Index (Figure 5.3) indicate that Sweden was lagging behind other OECD countries in terms of:

  • the definition of overarching formal requirements for all ministries and agencies to publish and share data

  • the implementation of open government data requirements (e.g. timeliness of data sharing, use of open formats) as part of performance indicators of organisations

  • encouraging and guiding public sector organisations to carry out consultations with users to inform open data plans and prioritise data publication.

Figure 5.3. OECD OURdata Index: Pillar 1 – Data availability
Figure 5.3. OECD OURdata Index: Pillar 1 – Data availability

Source: OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0.

Proactive data publication and user engagement are absent from the mindset of most public sector organisations. For instance, stakeholders indicated that Government Offices are notoriously driven by a focus on transparency (e.g. using freedom of information requests as the main driver to publish data), thus reflecting their understanding of what open data are.

In terms of data publication through the central open data portal (directly or indirectly), in line with the highly valuable datasets identified in the G8 Open Data Charter, Sweden has failed to pursue the publication of data on company/business registers, meteorological/weather, energy consumption, and health insurance and unemployment benefits. Additionally, data discoverability and availability are fragmented as a result of different access points provided for open government data. In the case of the publication of strategic data assets, decisions result again more from exogenous and extrinsic factors (such as EU directives) than from the endogenous and intrinsic motivation of the Swedish public sector. For instance, the Geodata portal – a good practice resulting from EU directives –could be further connected to central open data efforts.

For Pillar 2 on data accessibility (Figure 5.4), results from the OECD OURdata Index pointed to the following achievements and gaps in terms of policy definition and implementation.

There were no formal requirements in terms of enforcing and/or promoting the publication of government data with an open license, in machine-readable format, with accompanying metadata, and in a disaggregated and timely fashion. Nonetheless, in practice, government data were increasingly made available for public access free of charge and proactively by some leading agencies, under clear licensing conditions and with accompanying metadata.

The Swedish open data portal oppnadata.se stands as a mere data publication platform, missing its value as a tool and platform for multi-stakeholder collaboration and engagement, and for public value co-creation. From this perspective, it serves more as a data access website than as a platform for community exchange, collaboration and knowledge crowdsourcing. The portal lacks basic functions such as feedback sections and forums for discussions, as well as more advanced functions such as providing the possibility for actors of the ecosystem outside of the public sector to upload datasets, register their own organisations as data publishers, and engage in discussions with other users centred on their datasets, such as the case of the French portal data.gouv.fr.

Even though the National Archives has been so far responsible for the management of the open data portal, and has provided for its development, for the formulation of guidelines, online tutorials (e.g. www.vidareutnygjande.se), support with metadata and data publication (e.g. sandbox.oppnadata.se), there is a need to advance open data efforts in Sweden. This implies, for instance, the need for guiding and supporting agencies in their open data journey, particularly when the benefits resulting from opening up government data are not clear for an agency, and the publication of data would mean a transition from fee-based models to free data access.

The absence of such a clear vision and understanding of the value proposition results, as highlighted previously in this chapter, that the goals of open data are limited to publication-oriented purposes rather than being supported by a strategic goal-oriented mindset. Discussions remain technical (e.g. centred on data architecture and infrastructure matters) and are not focused on the value of data as infrastructure and as a strategic asset for the policy cycle.

The mere nature of the for-profit business models of some agencies is used as an excuse to avoid embarking on open data efforts instead of using it as a driver to disrupt organisational models and identify data-driven solutions to reduce costs and contribute to organisational efficiency and improved public service delivery. This funding model arises as a key challenge to be overcome by some public bodies.

Agencies are not fully engaged in opening up data because it can either affect their revenues (e.g. the Mapping Authority opens up some data, but the most valuable data are only available for a fee) (see Chapter 4) or because there is no clarity in terms of the potential risks of opening up government data (e.g. geodata).

Figure 5.4. OECD OURdata Index: Pillar 2 – Data accessibility
Figure 5.4. OECD OURdata Index: Pillar 2 – Data accessibility

Source: OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0.

Advancing the open data agenda in Sweden should not be the responsibility of one single co-ordinating agency, but a collaborative effort across the public sector. This should be based on a common and jointly defined vision that is translated into a strategy that could frame and direct the actions of the various actors, and the engagement of the whole ecosystem, in data reuse towards the creation of value. This could draw on the Swedish culture and embed a narrative that speaks to the Swedish public sector and the strategic priorities of the government, e.g. around public sector productivity and social innovation.

Data reuse in Sweden: Acknowledging the value of the ecosystem

The availability and accessibility of open government data is a means to an end. Enabling government as a platform drawing upon the availability of data as infrastructure requires the definition and implementation of coherent efforts to spur data reuse. These efforts recognise the value of open government data as input to businesses’ and civil organisations’ value chains. Examples include improving the private sector’s strategic decision making and business development, and/or enabling civic auditing by the reuse and analysis of data on public contracting and public officials’ declaration of interests.

Pillar 3 of the 2017 OURdata Index (Figure 5.5) measures the efforts implemented by OECD member and partner countries to trigger the reuse of open government data. These actions draw upon the implementation of initiatives to leverage the availability and accessibility of open government data as measured in Pillars 1 and 2 of the OURdata Index.

Results from Pillar 3 of the 2017 OURdata Index point, in general terms, to a disconnection between the public sector and the external vibrant tech ecosystem in Sweden.

Figure 5.5. OECD OURdata Index: Pillar 3 – Data reuse
Figure 5.5. OECD OURdata Index: Pillar 3 – Data reuse

Source: OECD Open Government Data Survey 3.0.

Pillar 3 of the OURdata Index provides evidence of the following issues in terms of data reuse and stakeholder engagement in Sweden:

  • While the government’s strategy for a digital co-operative state administration (known as Med medborgaren i centrum in Swedish)3 encourages collaboration with citizens and the publication of open data as a tool to enable the development of third-party public service delivery solutions, there seems to be an implementation gap between what public bodies are expected to do to engage the ecosystem and what they actually do.

  • The central government could make more efforts to understand the main barriers in terms of data reuse for businesses and civil society organisations (as in Spain through its infomediary study4 and the Australian government’s Productivity Commission Inquiry Report on Data Availability and Use5). Even initiatives to develop partnerships with business incubators to support the reuse of open data by companies and start-ups are out of the scope of the government’s activities in Sweden.

  • The relevance of the potential benefits of open data for social value does not yet seem to be fully acknowledged; the focus is more on business innovation. For instance, in Finland the results of Open Challenge Finland 2015 were useful to develop a visualisation map to understand the flow of asylum seekers to European countries over time. At the local level, the Service Map of the Helsinki Capital Area provides data about services in the Helsinki capital area. Public municipal services like schools, health stations and day care centres are most thoroughly represented, with detailed data about their accessibility properties.

  • Most public sector institutions are rarely or never involved in initiatives aiming to raise awareness of the benefits of open data to businesses and civil society organisations, identify their data needs, or organise multi-stakeholder co-creation events.

  • The work of the National Archives has aimed to develop data literacy and increase awareness among public sector institutions in relation to open government data. Yet, open data are not leveraged or embedded by default in policy development processes by public officials.

Most public sector agencies in Sweden are disconnected from the broad open data ecosystem and self-identify as data access gatekeepers and data owners instead of custodians of public data and active actors within the open data ecosystem – a role that is contradictory to the active discussion around private sector and civic innovation and the needed active commitment of the public sector in this regard. When engaged, most public agencies have a strong approach on making data available as a goal as expressed by public sector stakeholders in Sweden. Nevertheless, despite these challenges, open data efforts within the public sector are emerging under the leadership of some public sector champions.

The organisation of the event entitled “HackforSweden” by the Agency for Employment (Arbetsförmedlingen) stands as one of the most relevant examples in terms of stakeholder engagement in Sweden (Box 5.2). The event is organised with the participation of other agencies such as Vinnova, the National Archives, and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket). Yet, earlier versions of the event failed to connect policy issues with data-driven solutions and focused more on exploring what data users could or could not do.

Other relevant examples of agencies taking the lead to move forward open data efforts across different policy sectors are also present.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvardsverket) developed an open up guidance model6 to support the publication of environmental data in line with its institutional open data policy. This model is also intended to help other agencies to publish open government data. In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency launched its data management strategy drawing upon its vision on the value of environmental data as a resource for society. The strategy was developed in collaboration with other Swedish public agencies including the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, county administrative boards and the regional water authorities (Environmental Protection Agency, 2016). It stresses the need of making environmental data not only available, but discoverable, accessible, easy to understand, free of charge, and published in a timely fashion while easing inter-agency data management models and data-sharing processes. The strategy follows a collaborative mindset as these efforts aim to facilitate inter-agency collaboration in line with the Digital First goals for environmental data and smarter services.

Another example is provided by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), whose efforts have focused on opening up forestry data and draw on its value to foster collaboration between different actors from the private, academic and public sectors.7 The SLU has also started a Forest Data lab to explore the use of advanced 3D visualisation technologies and the use of data for improved scenario-based and data-driven decision making.8

Another example of the SLU’s initiatives concerns the Swedish LifeWatch initiative led by the Swedish Species Information Centre (ArtDatabanken, a unit within the SLU). The Swedish LifeWatch initiative aims to build a data infrastructure by making all Swedish biodiversity data available in open and standardised formats through interoperable web services, and to develop tools and virtual laboratories for advanced biodiversity and ecosystem analysis. The Swedish LifeWatch initiative currently provides roughly 67 million Swedish species observation records relating to 35 000 different species from 15 primary databases.9

Box 5.2. Hack for Sweden: An example of government agencies taking the lead on open government data-led innovation

Hack for Sweden has the mission to build a community for open data creation to enable sustainable innovation across society. The goal is to stimulate and support government agencies in their ongoing work aimed at making more government data available.

In 2018, as part of the process of increasing the digitalisation of the public sector, the Swedish government focused on open data and data-driven innovation. The idea is that the public sector, academic sector, enterprise and creative organisations from civil society need to interact and collaborate to produce value. The initiative rests on the recognition that the reuse of open data can contribute to increased growth, participation and efficiency. Open and data-driven innovation provide an essential opportunity for increasing the number of people that contribute to the digital welfare of tomorrow’s society and together produce social benefits. The Swedish government further argues that where there is social benefit, the public sector should be an active partner. Access to authorities’ data, if provided as open data, can lead to a variety of benefits for both society and economy. This includes giving citizens, businesses and civil society the opportunity for increased and more democratic involvement in the authorities’ activities, for example in policy design and implementation, but also for transparency in government decisions.

One of the Swedish government’s objectives is to advance the use of open data to support innovation and participation, and the Hack for Sweden initiative is considered a key enabler of this virtuous collaboration between the public sector and the broader ecosystem. It aims to regularly engage public authorities throughout the years in actively seeking to enable effective reuse of open data to facilitate the emergence of a data market and to help strengthen people’s empowerment and to jointly build digital services. Hackathons to promote competitions in the reuse of data to deliver public value are one of the activities foreseen to promote the role of the government as a platform. This is why the management of the initiative Hack for Sweden is assigned to different public sector organisations in different years.

The latest commission to the Agency for Employment to lead Hack for Sweden includes commissions to engage the broader community and work with innovative procurement, data partnerships, etc. As a result, Hack for Sweden will move forward to start building the Hack for Sweden 365, an innovation-system for data-driven applications, with the participation of private partners, including the big IT companies in Sweden.

Sources: Published in OECD (2018a), Open Government Data Report: Enhancing Policy Maturity for Sustainable Impact, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264305847-en based on information from OECD (2018b), “Key findings”, www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/key-findings-digital-government-review-of-sweden-2018.htm.

The Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) has taken actions to draw upon the value of open data for improved urban mobility (Box 5.3). The agency has also made data available on facilities for dispensing waste from boats resulting on the development of a data-based service for boat owners. This service is intended to help supervise and report the status of the waste facilities in Swedish harbours via an interactive map and a mobile application drawing on constant user interaction.

Box 5.3. The Swedish Transport Agency’s Open Traffic Data project

In 2016, through a series of workshops, the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) launched the Joint forces for Open Traffic Data project with the goal of setting a common vision and shared actions for open transport data involving relevant actors.

The project resulted in the identification of five areas of work (similar to a common data governance model) relevant to move forward industry-wide solutions:

  • Datasets and services: The project identified a group of 12 datasets of high value for the development of smart mobility services, including for instance transport stops and stations, routes and schedules, real-time transport disturbance data. This group of datasets also included added-value data from external parties.

  • Licensing and terms of reuse, to enable data interoperability and sharing with and between data users at the national and international level and fostering third-party data reuse.

  • IT architecture, including the development of a shared national developer portal, a common information model, open standards for transport data interoperability and a centralised national data delivery to third-party actors.

  • Institutional governance, specifically an organisation in charge of implementing strategic objectives, developing technical solutions and collaborating with the public transport industry at the regional level.

  • Funding, including current and transition period financing sources.

Source: Based on Swedish Transport Agency (2017), “Joint forces for open traffic data: A common vision for Sweden – English abstract”, https://samtrafiken.se/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/English-abstract_-Final-report_-Joint-forces-for-open-trafffic-data-a-common-vision-for-Sweden-v-1.0_-English-Abstract-v-1.0.pdf.

The OECD found evidence that there are also open data efforts at the local level. SALAR (the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions) has implemented some open data initiatives at the local level in areas such as health, waste management, noise pollution and linked data.10 There are other efforts at the local level in Helsingborg, Gothenburg and Linköping, and in the context of the East Sweden Hack Initiative.11

However, the current general context for open data in Sweden highlights that both building and maturing an open data community within the public sector and reaching the external open data ecosystem are urgent challenges that need to be addressed.

On the one hand, in terms of the public sector ecosystem, it is necessary to build open data networks made up of public officials with an interest in or already working on open data. For instance, in Australia, the Digital Transformation Agency launched the Data Champion programme as an effort to set the governance for open data across the broader public sector. The programme enabled the establishment of an open data ecosystem within the public sector that could be used not only to promote open data efforts, but also as a basis for knowledge sharing. Yet, this would require setting clear governance for open data across the public sector (e.g. data stewards, data contact points), and the fact that Sweden currently lacks a clear open data policy is a limitation in this respect.

On the other hand, acknowledging the value of the external ecosystem not only as data users, but as partners, is a quintessential element of open data initiatives that lead to value co-creation. These efforts should set the basis for further open government data reuse, multi-stakeholder collaboration, and the design and implementation of problem-solving open data initiatives towards public value co-creation across different policy sectors. Measuring the results and impact of these initiatives would play a key role in this respect.

References

Environmental Protection Agency (2016), Strategy for Environmental Data Management, www.naturvardsverket.se/upload/sa-mar-miljon/oppna-data/miljodatastrategi/strategy-for-environmental-data-management-161107-ver-1.02.pdf.

OECD (2018a), Open Government Data Report: Enhancing Policy Maturity for Sustainable Impact, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264305847-en.

OECD (2018b), “Key findings”, brochure, OECD, Paris, www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/key-findings-digital-government-review-of-sweden-2018.htm.

OECD (2016) Open Government Data Survey 3.0, OECD, Paris.

Swedish Government (2010), Lag (2010:566) om vidareutnyttjande av handlingar från den offentliga förvaltningen, https://www.riksdagen.se/sv/dokument-lagar/dokument/svensk-forfattningssamling/lag-2010566-om-vidareutnyttjande-av-handlingar_sfs-2010-566.

Swedish Transport Agency (2017), “Joint forces for open traffic data: A common vision for Sweden – English abstract”, https://samtrafiken.se/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/English-abstract_-Final-report_-Joint-forces-for-open-trafffic-data-a-common-vision-for-Sweden-v-1.0_-English-Abstract-v-1.0.pdf.

Further reading

OECD (2018), Open Government Data in Mexico: The Way Forward, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264297944-en.

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