Open data across the Atlantic

Source: A. (Andrus) Ansip i, published on Tuesday, November 15 2016.

If I had to express my views about the digital future - that of Europe or of whole world - I could do it with one word. The word is data.

I said that in a speech a little over a year ago.

It is still as true now as it was then.

The digital economy revolves around data. It is the basis for our digital future and prosperity, for progress and opportunity.

As data's importance continues to grow in the public domain, there is a growing need to make it usable and interoperable.

Governments produce and possess a large amount of basic data that can be of great economic and social value - to individuals, businesses and to society as a whole.

It is a key resource in the modern information economy.

Take geographical and weather information, traffic data, general statistics, data from publicly funded research projects, certain books from libraries: all this public data has significant potential for re-use in new products and services, in the public as well as the private sector.

It can stimulate new markets, businesses and jobs by adding innovation value to the original data that was gathered.

Open data has a significant economic value. The European Data Portal, launched earlier this year, estimates the direct market size of open data in the EU-28 at €55.3 billion for 2016.

By 2020, this is projected to rise by 37%.

There are also other benefits from making more and better use of open data. Along with reducing traffic casualties, open data could also save 629 million hours of unnecessary waiting time on European roads.

Cooperation on opening up data flows with our major partners is essential. One recent example is the Privacy Shield.

Another is a project, again with our partners in the United States, to create a joint open-source product to facilitate access to open data from the EU and U.S. datasets and its retrieval.

While EU and U.S. data is available, it is not yet optimised for today's scientists and statisticians. The datasets have different structures and codes, which complicates their work.

Now, experts from the European Commission and U.S. Department of Commerce have developed an open-source library to act as an interface between U.S. and EU economic databases.

In Europe, these are produced by the EU statistics agency Eurostat; in the United States, by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Written in the statistical programming language "R", it offers integrated access to key indicators on the EU and U.S. economies; on GDP, population, employment, disposable income - by industry and region - to support research and product development.

This valuable open-source tool, unveiled last week at the Web Summit in Lisbon that I also attended, will give quick access to the integrated economic datasets available.

These can then be analysed by data journalists and online services such as, which brings together statistical data from countries around the world. It will help to create new business opportunities from the reuse of open data.

As the project continues, we will look at identifying user needs and so improve the usability of open data that originates in the EU and the United States.


(copyright: ThinkstockPhotos)

As I said at the start, everything today is based on data: the foundation of our digital future without borders.

Data flows between the EU and the United States are already the highest in the world and drive an increasing amount of transatlantic trade and investment.

We have a lot to gain by expanding our work together.

This innovative new tool is an excellent way to promote open data. It is also a good illustration of what transatlantic collaboration can really mean.

Another blog soon.