Sweden needs better coordination, skills and concrete incentives to drive the work on open data forward
The assessment of Sweden’s commitments in the framework of the Open Government Partnership (OGP)* has just been published. The assessment shows that Sweden’s third OGP action plan led to greater access to public service information. However, Alina Östling, the researcher who carried out the evaluation, underlines that future action plans could be more ambitious and be preceded by wider consultations with civil society during their development and implementation.
Sweden has faced issues with digital management and coordination for many years. A previous study by the Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV) found that progress towards digitization in the public sector varies significantly across different state and municipal organizations with a few excelling, while the majority lags behind [i]. The government assignments given to the pilot agencies in the framework of the Digital First programme have led to some improvements in terms of access to information, as several agencies have released substantial amounts of open data. For example, in September 2017, the Swedish mapping, cadastral and land registration authority (Lantmäteriet) released open geographic data according to the CC0 license [ii] (meaning that all rights are waived), [iii] and the Environment Agency released data in July 2018 that should facilitate navigation in protected areas that are free to use in proprietary applications. [iv] However, Lantmäteriet suggests that important obstacles remain, including a fragmented and partly analogous information supply. This impedes access to information, leads to unnecessary duplication of work for stakeholders, and to uneven development and progress.[v] Based on desk research and interviews with stakeholders, the OGP researcher recommends improving national coordination in access to basic public sector information and to invest in skills necessary for public sector digitization.
In terms of opening up Public Sector Information (PSI), the OGP assessment shows that it has become easier to re-use PSI. Sweden has increased both the number of PSI datasets published and the number of visitors on the national open data portal. According to the European Commission, Sweden has reached ‘portal maturity’ and is now an open data ‘fast-tracker’.[vi] The National Archives has further developed the national open data portal, and has almost tripled the number of datasets between July 2017 and August 2018 (from 494[vii] to 1,432).[viii] The number of unique visitors per month has increased from 330 in 2016[ix] to 2,000 in 2017, and the portal contains 90-99 percent of all openly licensed datasets.
However, despite good progress, the OGP report stresses that more needs to be done in order to increase the re-use of information, including more initiatives in the field of open data and a strategy that outlines the long-term priorities. Many authorities are still uncertain about how to facilitate opening data, and lack concrete incentives for driving the work forward. Progress has not been uniform across authorities[x] and tends to concern only some spearheads in the public administration.[xi] The responsibility to promote PSI and open data, as well as to assist public agencies in publishing such data has recently been taken over by the new Agency for Digital Government (DIGG)[xii] and the progress of Sweden in the field of open data will largely depend on the strategy and performance of DIGG.
* The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) carries out a review of the activities of each OGP-participating country. This report summarizes the results of the period July 2016 to June 2018: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/sweden-end-of-term-report-2016-2018-public-comment
[i] “Digitalization of public Sweden – a follow-up”. (The Swedish National Financial Management Authority (ESV), March 2018), https://www.esv.se/publicerat/publikationer/2018/digitaliseringen-av-det-offentliga-sverige–en-uppfoljning/
[ii] Creative Commons CC Zero License (cc-zero) is intended to be a ‘public domain dedication,’ i.e., a waiver of all rights including those of attribution. (“Creative Commons CC Zero License (cc-zero)” (Open Definition, 22 July 2018), http://opendefinition.org/licenses/cc-zero/.) CC0 is currently recommended as the preferred method for releasing software to the public domain by the Free Software Foundation. (“Various Licenses and Comments about Them” (Free Software Foundation, 27 June 2018), https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html). CC0 is also used by major players such as Open street map on Wikipedia.
[iii] “Now it becomes easier to use the Lantmäteriets open data” (Geoforum Sweden, 14 August 2017), https://geoforum.se/nyheter/266-oppna-data/3173-nu-blir-det-enklare-att-anvaenda-lantmaeteriets-oeppna-data
[iv] Geoforum Sverige, 16 July 2018, https://geoforum.se/nyheter/266-oppna-data/3484-naturvardsverket-slapper-oppna-data-som-forenklar-friluftslivet
[v] “Digital First- For a smarter community-building process” (The Swedish mapping, cadastral and land registration authority (Lantmäteriet) January 2018), https://www.geodata.se/globalassets/dokumentarkiv/styrning-och-uppfoljning/geodatastrategin/slutrapport-digitalt-forst.pdf
[vi] European Data Portal, Open data maturity dashboard, 24 August 2018, https://www.europeandataportal.eu/en/dashboard#tab-detailed
[vii] The IRM researcher verified the number of available datasets during the data collection for the second IRM mid-term reports on 17 July 2017, on the oppnadata.se portal.
[viii] The IRM researcher verified the number of available datasets during the data collection for the second IRM end-of-term reports on 24 August 2017, https://registrera.oppnadata.se/status/overview
[ix] “Sweden – Overview”, European Data Portal, https://www.europeandataportal.eu/sites/default/files/country-factsheet_sweden.pdf.
[x] About 40 percent of the national authorities and 60 percent of municipalities and county councils have not implemented any specific measure at all to make available for re-use. Source: The evaluation of the re-use of data and public documents carried out by the Agency for Public Management (Milestone 2.3.) published on 9 January 2018, http://www.statskontoret.se/globalassets/publikationer/2018/201802.pdf
[xi] The evaluation of the re-use of data and public documents carried out by the Agency for Public Management (Milestone 2.3.) published on 9 January 2018, http://www.statskontoret.se/globalassets/publikationer/2018/201802.pdf
[xii] The website of DIGG with a description of the scope of the Agency: https://www.digg.se/utveckling–innovation/oppna-data-och-datadriven-innovation