European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes, calls it a “goldmine.” Better yet, Europe enjoys plenty of the resource. What is so potentially valuable? The data collected by governments.

Under Mrs. Kroes’s lead, the Commission is taking important steps to open access to public data. It is creating a European Open Data Portal making the Commission’s data accessible and easy to use. The Commission would like other public administrations to follow suit.

Public data could boost Europe’s economies without requiring new public spending. Estimates suggest that the European Union could add EUR 40 billion per year in the continent’s economic activity if it fully opened up access to public data. Another recent study finds that direct and indirect economic impact of public data amount to about EUR140 billion annually. Individuals and firms can use this information to develop new business ideas.

Another benefit is increased accountability of public services. Openness in public administration helps to nurture trust in institutions -which is particularly needed in times of economic crisis. Empowered and informed citizens may feel more confident to explore new ideas and create new businesses.

France has taken a strong step forward in this field. Etalab, the French governement initiative launched the site late last year. Journalists, researchers, and all French citizens now can analyze line by line the budget of the French government, or know what books are held by public libraries.

Etalab encourages the public to develop apps with the information. Citizens are able to build applications such as where does my money go. Along with other companies, we are sponsoring a service called Dataconnexions, which aims to boost the reuse of public data in general and especially those of the portal Data Connxtions is organising a number of events throughout the year 2012, including four contests application development. We are holding Google Open Data Workshop, the first of which was held on March 14. Excerpts are visible below.

Bravo! We look forward to seeing more initiatives like Etalab in the future.