Today I heard the EU High Value Data list in its first iteration is finally decided upon. In September 2020 we submitted our advice on what data to include in the thematic areas of geographic data, statistics, mobility, company information, meteorology, earth observation and environment. Last week the Member States submitted their final yes/no vote, and the final text was approved. The EC will now finalise the text for publication, and it should be published before the end of the year. It will enter into force 20 days after publication and government data holders have 16 months until April/May 2024 to ensure compliance. It’s been a long path, and this first list could have been better concerning company information. Yet, when it comes to geographic data (addresses, buildings, land parcels, topography), meteorology and that same company information, it draws a line under two decades of discussion, court cases and studies to help dismantle the revenue model of charging at the point of use. Such charges are a threshold to market entry, and are generally lower than the tax revenue otherwise gained from the activities it’s a threshold to.

It’s easy to just move ahead and think about how this is not enough, what still needs doing, how to implement this etc. But it’s good to acknowledge that when I first started working on open government data in 2008 I heard the stories of those who had been at it for many years since well before the first PSI Directive was agreed in 2003. Some of those people have by now been retired for quite some time already, and I worked on it standing on their shoulders. The implementation act for EU high value data sets is a big step, even if in the field we thought it a no-brainer for decades already.

Last Tuesday I provided the opening keynote at BeGeo, the annual conference of Belgium’s geospatial sector, organised by the Belgian National Geographic Institute. My talk was part of the opening plenary session, after the welcome by NGI’s administrator-general Ingrid Vanden Berghe, and opening remarks by Belgian Minister for Defence Ludivine Dedonder.

With both the Digital and Data strategies the EU is shaping a geopolitical proposition w.r.t. digitisation and data. Anchored to maximising societal benefits and strengthening citizen rights and European values as measures of success, a wide range of novel legal instruments is being created. Those instruments provide companies, citizens, knowledge institutes and governments alike with new opportunities as well as responsibilities concerning the use of data. The forming of a single European market for data sharing and usage, the EU data space, also has consequences for all applications, including AI and digital twins, that are dependent on that data and produce data in return.

Geo-data has a key role to play, not just in the Green Deal data space, and finds itself at the center of a variety of ethical issues as it is often the linking pin for other data sources. The EU data space will shape the environment in which data and geo-data is being shared and used for the coming decade, and requires elevating the role and visibility of geo data across other sectors. I explored the EU Data space as geo-data’s new frontier, to provide the audience with an additional perspective and some questions for their participation at the BeGeo conference.

The slides are embedded below, which you can also embed in your own website, and can be downloaded as PDF.