information because the images were of such low quality., however, put the information free on the Internet and generated income from advertisements. The revenues from advertisements are a direct economic proxy, but the broader economic impacts are much bigger. You may measure these impacts, for instance, by asking people what is it worth to them that they do not get wet when riding home on their bicycles. It is not really quite that simple. You have to be rather specific in describing what the services are that may be derived from a particular piece of PSI, but there is already a lot of experience with estimating this kind of hedonistic pricing. As a first attempt, I would guess the overall benefits of making PSI freely available to society are around the original Pira figures for Europe, i.e., €60-€70 billion.

So why bother? Actually, this is exactly what I said one and a half years ago, here in Paris: (1) Government is a major producer of information, and (2) there is a lot of money involved in the commercial exploitation of information.

It appears that there is a huge (potential) pot of gold, which is currently the second-generation view. However, it is important to keep in mind that (1) and (2) are separate things. Public sector information is important in its own right. If you think it is important, then use taxpayers’ money to produce it, and do not mix it up with private use. If you want a dynamic private European information industry, then you will need to take various steps, such as doing something about competition policies. But this has nothing to do with PSI, per se.

How then does one determine the overall total economic value of PSI—including its wider societal value? This depends, really, upon the view of the citizen. If citizens think it is important, then the government should spend tax money on it. I want to emphasize that we should also take this wider (and important) societal value into account; only then will we be able to arrive at some hard numbers, following the methods in studying environmental economics as an example. One should not, however, focus too much on the value of commercial reuse. That is not the huge pot of gold after all, and to focus exclusively on it may even work against getting the most economic value out of PSI.

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