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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Open data will lay the groundwork for future IT startups

A new bill has been proposed to Verkhovna Rada, which might facilitate the process of building a digital state
17 February, 2015 - 10:37
Denys Hursky

Accessible information gives rise to innovational projects, as indicated in “Big and open data in Europe: A growth engine or a missed opportunity?” – a report by demosEUROPA agency and Warsaw institute for economic studies. The researchers estimate that the overall effect of embracing open data for EU member states by 2020 might amount up to 1.9 percent of their annual GDP.

“One reason open data is so attractive is that you can combine it into an interesting pattern. For instance, take an array of drug names and prices and compile it with one of pharmacy stores – in the end you’ll be able to get to the closest store with the cheapest medications,” says Maksym Kliuchar, UNDP expert.

A particular example is the UK government, which opened circa 20,000 data sets to the public, giving the impetus for many new mobile apps and websites. Now any Briton may use a special utility to learn whether any of the recently deceased might have been their relative and left any inheritance for them. Midnight walk aficionados have the ability to assess the danger of particular neighborhoods. “Actually, the British are devoting a lot of energy and resources to the development of this area. But one of the biggest problems for them is that 80 percent of their resources are spent on sorting out the low-quality data,” continues Kliuchar.

In Moldova, open data startups have found a number of niches to serve community’s needs: in public procurement, environment protection, land cadastre, and non-governmental control of expenditure budget. The latter is available as a website, in which anyone can get the visualization of a particular data, creating an infographic. This method gives a much better understanding of the information.

In Ukraine the public data is not yet completely open. A website data.gov.ua, having been launched only in spring 2014, marked the beginning of open data. To this day the data assembled and arranged by developers include financial, transport, demographical, cultural, social, legal, and others.

A bill “On amendments to certain legislative acts of Ukraine concerning access to information in the form of open data and data re-use” is intended to facilitate the emergence of open data. The bill was developed in cooperation with UNDP and Danish foreign ministry, and Verkhovna Rada will soon begin the hearings. “Public data should be open and automatically updated without inquiries. The passing of the bill on open data might be a way to finally compel the government to digitize its bureaucracy,” says Mykhailo Shmeliov, director for technological policy of Microsoft Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a foundation called SocialBoost prepares a launch of the IT-accelerator, in order to have all IT services provided by the startups accommodated in Ukrainian e-government. This accelerator will support the entrepreneurs with a consulting program for the duration of one or two months, as well as with linking them to the appropriate ministries. Denys Hursky, SocialBoost founder, is certain that this might give a head start to open data and e-government in Ukraine.

“Open data will bring changes, which will primarily exhibit themselves in the quality of service one would be able to receive in the country. Such changes for us might come, for example, in the emergence of public transportation management projects and providing the citizens with correct information related to this area. Or in open weather data, available through mobile apps, websites and so on. Another idea – a possibility to predict one’s economic prospects in a particular city,” says Hursky.

However, according to IT-specialists there is yet another problem open data in Ukraine might encounter – a lack of a unified data format. After all, the public data is still processed separately, not consolidated into a single, machine-friendly format, and the update times are far from being effective. Moreover, a piece of public information can only be obtained following the official inquiry. To add insult to injury, replies to such inquiries are often delayed due to the ineffectiveness of the whole governmental system – as a result, a citizen might get only a formal, obscure, and useless response instead of information they need.

By Maria YUZYCH, The Day