How Open Data Can Help Journalism

By Mathias Felipe & Clara G. Tosat

On 1st March, Esther Huyer, part of the team behind European Data Portal (EDP), gave a presentation for University of Navarra about open data in journalism. EDP shares information about tools that are useful for open data, and platforms for journalists and researchers. The EDP team is working in collaboration with researchers, publishers and organisations to promote use and awareness of open data. Our partner, European Journalism Centre, is working with them to spread the portal for the community of journalists.

What is Open Data?

Open Data refers to the information collected, produced or paid for by public institutions and made freely available for reuse for any purpose. 

What is the European Data Portal?

The EDP offers multiple resources to support data literacy and awareness. The portal harvests the metadata of Public Sector Information available on public data portals across European countries, which includes information regarding the provision of data and the benefits of reusing data. The portal also brings some use cases from publishers and other organisations that are re-users of open data. Anyone can contribute with stories using open data for the use cases through the portal via ‘Tell us your story.’ Another interesting function of the website is some reports, which includes the Open Data Maturity in Europe, and e-Learning modulesin multiple languages that cover open data basics, such as licensing and data formats and guidance on how to harness the value of open data.

Open Data Maturity in Europe

The EDP team developed a framework to measure the success of Open Data in Europe. To measure Open Data Maturity, they selected two key indicators that cover both the maturity of national policies promoting Open Data as well as an assessment of the features made available on national data portals. Data was collected for the 28 European countries besides Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

To understand better the maturity of Open Data, EDP established the Open Data Readiness indicator shows that EU28+ has an average of 44.7%. In total, 27 countries have a national Open Data portal, leaving four countries without a portal. Spain is one of the countries leading the maturity level, with one of the most advanced and solid Open Data portals with elaborate functionalities and coordination mechanisms across domains.

The figure shows most countries are now in the ‘Followers’ group and on their way to becoming ‘Trend Setters’ (Source: EDP).

The Portal Maturity indicator shows a EU28+ average of 40.8%. The national portals present a great heterogeneity among them. According to the report, only 33% of the portals offer a feedback mechanism. Besides that, another issue brought by the document is the availability of machine-readable data. To the date, the level is relatively low, only 15% of the countries have more than 75% of their data available in machine-readable format. 

Other portals for Open Data  

There are other tools to monitor Open Data and find data relevant to journalists and researchers. The OpenDataMonitor is a platform that gives visitors an overview of available open data resources, allowing them to analyse and visualise existing data catalogues using innovative technologies. The portal shows the number of datasets available, open licenses, indicators of machine-readable format, availability and metadata completeness of 28 European countries.

Another platform that is worth a visit is the GDELT Project. The portal claims to be the largest, most comprehensive, and highest resolution open database of human society ever created. Today the platform contains over a quarter-billion event records in over 300 categories covering the entire world from 1979 to present. GDELT Project monitors the world’s broadcast, print, and web news from nearly every corner of every country in over 100 languages to offer a free open platform for computing on the entire world. 

Recently launched by the World Wide Web Foundation, the Open Data Barometer (ODB) aims to measure the impact of open data initiatives around the world. At the moment, the platform covers 30 governments analysing the three indicators: readiness, implementation of programmes, and the project’s impact on the country.

What’s next?

While Open Data, in general, is still a work in progress, EDP team is tackling the topic with professionals to spread the knowledge about the need for Open Data and how the portal can help on a daily basis. The portal is also offering indexed searches in any language of the 28 European countries, which facilitates the use of the data. The Use Cases are a great tool for journalists and academics to understand how to reuse the data from the platform.

As part of the events developed by EDP team, the third edition of EU Datathon will take place on 13th June in Brussels (Belgium). The EU Datathon 2019 aims to stimulate the use and re-use of open data and to support competitors in showcasing their data skills and innovative ideas. Ideas can be submitted  by 24th March for a chance to win a cash prize.

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This project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement No 765140