Open Letter: Open data priorities in Sweden

Data produced by the public sector constitutes a comprehensive and valuable resource that can benefit society as a whole. The value of just a minor share of all the data available – so called high-value open data – is estimated to be SEK 10-21 billion per year for Sweden. At the same time, several open data experts agree that the progress on open data in Sweden has been slow, even if some good practices, regional champions and models have emerged in recent times. These are their recommendations to speed up the release and reuse of data:

Follow “high-value, high-impact” and “publish with purpose” principles

… rather than going for “open by default” or “raw data now”. What is high-value and high-impact data in Sweden first has to be defined. This work has just begun in Sweden, prompted by the EU’s Open Data Directive that requires Member States to publish a list of high-value datasets free of charge. Lantmäteriet has identified 300 high-value datasets held by government agencies and other public organisations in Sweden. A next logical step would be a taxonomy to classify and showcase open data uses and solutions in Sweden. It would enable us to understand where open data can create value and what kind of values should have priority  – think not only about public sector efficiency and business growth but also public good values. 

Stimulate collaboration across sectors and between actors

These priority-setting exercises should be done in collaboration between companies, the civil society and the public sector. Sweden needs forums where data holders and reusers can meet, exchange knowledge and where the future of open data can be discussed. Some initiatives are already planned but efforts should be stepped up to have real impact. Moreover, the government should put a particular emphasis on the civic and democratic aspects of open data – transparency, accountability and inclusion – largely neglected in the past. 

Create an open data ombudsperson 

… to further strengthen the importance of public interest. An ombudsperson would fulfill the much needed role of facilitating stakeholder discussions and partnerships, providing more objective progress reporting on policy implementation, ensuring the stability of the open data field, as well as protecting and representing the public’s interest.

Develop a knowledge and coordination hub

This hub would be a “one stop shop” for data, where national and local authorities can turn for support and advice, and that can work as a sort of institutional memory of all the past and current data initiatives. To address this gap, a number of authorities that are already far ahead in terms of open data – together with the Swedish Internet Foundation (Internetstiftelsen) – are setting in place a “Data workshop” (“Dataverkstan”). This is a good start but, to have a meaningful  impact, the coordination work needs to be scaled up significantly.

Let  smart cities build on open data sharing 

The Swedish information systems must be reformed in order to achieve social, economic and environmental sustainability. Several ongoing innovation projects – e.g. the project Viable cities, with the goal of creating climate-neutral cities through digitization – share many common challenges and could be linked to open data initiatives to avoid developing silos. 

In view of the next year’s national elections and the upcoming development of the next Open Government Partnership-plan (also due in 2022) this is a good moment to step up the efforts on open data for public good in Sweden.

See details about the method, sources and references in the “ODCP Brief: Raising awareness about open data in Sweden”. Contact: [email protected] 

This Open letter is posted in the framework of the project “Open data for civic participation”, run by Open Knowledge Sweden together with the NGO “My Voice” in Latvia and with Belarusian partners. This project is implemented with the support of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ funding programme for NGO co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region. The goal of the project is to exchange knowledge and experiences between the NGOs in Sweden, Latvia and Belarus about the availability and the use of the open data for civic participation, and ultimately to make civic activism more informed and effective.

During the project, we engaged stakeholders in discussions about the situation with open data in Sweden in order to understand what is needed to enable further data openness. To this end, we interviewed different types of actors working in the open data field in Sweden representing academia, public sector, journalists, and experts in open data. As a result we have published a brief and this Open Letter addressed to public officials and policy makers with recommendations about the way forward in the field of open data in Sweden.