7.
Measuring the Economic Impact of the PSI Directive in the Context of the 2008 Review1

Chris Corbin

ePSIplus, United Kingdom


This presentation will cover the period from July 1, 2005, when the European Union’s (EU) directive on the re-use of public sector information2 came into force within member states, until the time of the EU’s review in 2008. The ePSIplus project is a thematic network. Its purpose is to support the directive by helping potential users understand the opportunities associated with PSI use and reuse. The network is planned to be operational for 30 months, from September 2006 through the end of February 2009, with a relatively minimal total budget of €950,000, and it will cover the 33 countries of the European Union and the European Free Trade Area. The project is concerned with all aspects of PSI, even those that are excluded from the directive, and it is intended to serve every type of stakeholder. Under the rules of the EU eContentplus Program for thematic networks, participation of the network partners is voluntary. The audience includes more than 50 million public servants in Europe, employed at several million public sector bodies, plus an unknown number of potential private sector reusers; these numbers are constantly changing as the public and private sectors are reconfigured.


The project’s strategy is to gather evidence and monitor the value chain, beginning with the PSI directive and then observing how that transfers into government policy within a country, how this policy is actually interpreted by the PSI holder, and then how the policy is interpreted by the reuser, either commercial or noncommercial. There clearly is a gap between the policy maker and the PSI holder, and attention must be given to improving the way that policy makers actually monitor the effectiveness of their policies. This is difficult, however, because of the large and diverse number of policy makers in Europe. A second gap arises from the resistance factor that favors protectionist policies and practices; it is important to quantify the results of this resistance. There is a general perception that regulators are underfunded, but this has to be quantified in order to justify more funds. Yet another issue is that in Europe, where so much commerce takes place across borders, it will be important in monitoring PSI reuse to look at single market areas rather than individual countries.


Defining “reuse” is quite a large topic, and one of the challenges of this topic is that most reuse of PSI starts with small companies that have only one or a few employees. Another difficulty is monitoring legal cases in which a particular reuse is challenged. Legal issues are not easy to understand and can vary based on the EU member state, but an analysis of them generally shows that member states are not doing particularly well in implementing even the basic parts of the directive, the main goal of

1

Based on a presentation found at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/12/48/40064809.pdf

2

Commission of the European Communities. 2003. Directive 2003/9 8/EC of Parliament and Council on the re-use of public sector information. Found at http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/directive/psi_directive_en.pdf



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7. Measuring the Economic Impact of the PSI Directive in the Context of the 2008 Review1 Chris Corbin ePSIplus, United Kingdom This presentation will cover the period from July 1, 2005, when the European Union’s (EU) directive on the re-use of public sector information2 came into force within member states, until the time of the EU’s review in 2008. The ePSIplus project is a thematic network. Its purpose is to support the directive by helping potential users understand the opportunities associated with PSI use and reuse. The network is planned to be operational for 30 months, from September 2006 through the end of February 2009, with a relatively minimal total budget of €950,000, and it will cover the 33 countries of the European Union and the European Free Trade Area. The project is concerned with all aspects of PSI, even those that are excluded from the directive, and it is intended to serve every type of stakeholder. Under the rules of the EU eContentplus Program for thematic networks, participation of the network partners is voluntary. The audience includes more than 50 million public servants in Europe, employed at several million public sector bodies, plus an unknown number of potential private sector reusers; these numbers are constantly changing as the public and private sectors are reconfigured. The project’s strategy is to gather evidence and monitor the value chain, beginning with the PSI directive and then observing how that transfers into government policy within a country, how this policy is actually interpreted by the PSI holder, and then how the policy is interpreted by the reuser, either commercial or noncommercial. There clearly is a gap between the policy maker and the PSI holder, and attention must be given to improving the way that policy makers actually monitor the effectiveness of their policies. This is difficult, however, because of the large and diverse number of policy makers in Europe. A second gap arises from the resistance factor that favors protectionist policies and practices; it is important to quantify the results of this resistance. There is a general perception that regulators are underfunded, but this has to be quantified in order to justify more funds. Yet another issue is that in Europe, where so much commerce takes place across borders, it will be important in monitoring PSI reuse to look at single market areas rather than individual countries. Defining “reuse” is quite a large topic, and one of the challenges of this topic is that most reuse of PSI starts with small companies that have only one or a few employees. Another difficulty is monitoring legal cases in which a particular reuse is challenged. Legal issues are not easy to understand and can vary based on the EU member state, but an analysis of them generally shows that member states are not doing particularly well in implementing even the basic parts of the directive, the main goal of 1 Based on a presentation found at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/12/48/40064809.pdf 2 Commission of the European Communities. 2003. Directive 2003/9 8/EC of Parliament and Council on the re-use of public sector information. Found at http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/directive/psi_directive_en.pdf 29

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SOCIOECONOMIC EFFECTS OF PSI ON DIGITAL NETWORKS 30 which is simplification. It is remarkable how, because of the normal human tendency of making things complex, that goal has been lost as one goes down the value chain. So is the ePSIplus thematic network working? In answering that question, it is important to keep in mind several facts. First, there are various constraints involved in any network, such as ePSIplus, where participation is voluntary. Second, any project that operates across Europe is quite challenging because it faces a multilingual and multicultural environment. Third, the markets are all at different stages of development, each with a huge range of PSI stakeholders and competition. The public sector is competing with the private sector, and private sector entities are competing with each other. Business strategy and information are generally considered proprietary by the PSI holders. Furthermore, there is a lack of measurement tools, especially for economic modeling and understanding data apart from the macro level. One key issue is: When the pendulum swings from high charges for obtaining PSI to being free of charge, how is the public task maintained and how much money is involved? If the pendulum suddenly swings, how many companies that have relied on the current model are likely to go out of business? And how is the new model charted over time? While it has been possible to analyze the legal issues, it is more difficult to analyze the economic and social effects. Since this information comes from the people involved in the PSI-related activities, it has been critical to develop better relationships with those in the field. The project is also looking at trends in order to identify good practices and to determine what can be replicated across member states. For example, if a country has a complaints procedure that is dedicated to reuse, how does it compare with a country that does not have one? What is the effect of having a complaints procedure, and does it result in a measurable difference between the countries? Since the project is only at its midlife, determining the effect of any activity is not easy. The number of PSI stakeholders becoming interested in these topics is definitely growing, however, and it is clear that the presence of the directive has forced the pace of the debate. So what has been the impact of the PSI directive? The understanding of and expertise with PSI is low, and that is the real issue. People understand basics, but what is still lacking is a real understanding of the complexity of PSI in terms of how it relates to governance, how governments change, and how that affects PSI activities. There is no straightforward answer, either in the European context or the global context. Part of the problem is that there are few among the EU member states who actually see PSI as an economic factor, even though a chief focus of the Lisbon Treaty is to develop the knowledge economy. Unfortunately, policy makers often do not think outside of their own country, and they do not see why they should be thinking beyond it. Finally, there remains a huge challenge in addressing the educational needs about PSI and disentangling what people say from what they believe. People can remember what the situation was like pre-2003, before the PSI directive was finalized, but that is not all that helpful. As the ePSIplus project holds more meetings and the attendance grows, each meeting needs to move forward on what the issues are today and to stop harping on what went on in the past. Nevertheless, the network process is slowly working, and that is a hopeful sign for more success in the future.