Everything you need to know about High-Value Datasets (HVDs): Part 1 – FAQs

In January 2023, the European Commission published a list of categories of high-value datasets that public sector bodies will have to make available for re-use, free of charge, by June 2024.

This article provides an overview of the context surrounding HVDs and answers the most frequently asked questions. It will help you better understand HVDs and how to progress on your data journey.

Where did high-value datasets come from?

Research and experience have shown that for public sector data to better serve the citizens’ needs it should be open by design and by default. However, technical, legal, and financial barriers have contributed to public sector data in Europe not being used enough, despite EU policies and investments over the past two decades.

The Open Data Directive strengthens the existing rules on data formats, allowing for various ways to reuse the data, including real-time updates. The new rules set stricter limits on charging for data access, removing the high costs that hindered data reuse before.

To overcome the remaining obstacles, the Open Data Directive required the European Commission to adopt an Implementing Regulation that specifies concrete high-value datasets. Public sector organisations are now required to make these HVDs available for free, in formats that machines can understand, through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and, where applicable, as a bulk download.

What are high-value datasets and why are they important?

Theoretically, the more data is made available, the better. But given the limited resources that publishers have at their disposal, it is important to prioritise datasets for publication.

The Government produces certain data that is considered highly valuable for creating innovative services and applications or relevant to public interest. For instance, datasets concerning weather observations, air quality, and noise levels are crucial for supporting research, driving innovation, and informing policymaking, particularly in the battle against climate change. Moreover, information about transportation and building locations can greatly assist logistics and transport businesses while enhancing the efficiency of public services. This data can play a significant role in improving traffic flow and optimising various aspects of service delivery.

The Open Data Directive defines the HVDs as “documents held by a public sector body, the re-use of which is associated with important benefits for society, the environment and the economy”. HVDs have the potential to benefit a high number of users, in particular small and medium enterprises (SMEs), assist in generating revenues and can be combined with other datasets. HVDs are considered open data, meaning they can be reused for any purpose.

What kinds of data are high-value datasets?

The new regulation set up under the  defines six categories of such high-value datasets:

  • Geospatial
  • Earth observation and environment
  • Meteorological
  • Statistics
  • Companies
  • Mobility

At a later stage, the thematic range can be expanded to incorporate new technological advancements and market developments. This flexibility allows for the inclusion of emerging areas and ensures that the datasets remain relevant and aligned with the evolving needs of technology and business landscapes. By adapting to changes in technology and market trends, the range of datasets can continue to provide valuable insights and support innovation in various sectors.

Why were those six categories chosen?

During the process to identify the six categories, the European Commission engaged in extensive consultations with various stakeholders, including data holders and users. Interviews were conducted to gather input and create an initial “wish list” of datasets believed to have high value in terms of their economic, societal, and reusability aspects. Concurrently, the Impact Assessment Support Study was conducted to identify relevant European-level legislation and determine which data fields were already covered by existing EU rules. The study then assessed each dataset based on the criteria outlined in Article 14(2) of the Open Data Directive to determine its classification as “high value.” This thorough process ensured a comprehensive evaluation of datasets and their potential impact.

What are the impacts on SMEs and competitiveness?

High-value datasets were designed to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, who often face challenges accessing and improving the quality of public sector data due to limited resources.

Increasing the availability of data will foster entrepreneurship and lead to the emergence of new companies. Moreover, HVDs can play a crucial role for start-ups by helping them validate their business ideas and attract investors. Open data also has the potential to empower SMEs, as they can develop data software solutions that use public sector data as their primary product or service.

Furthermore, the free availability of data will help level the playing field for SMEs in comparison to Big Tech companies, as the cost of acquiring data is not a significant barrier for the latter.

Will the provision of HVDs result in a significant burden for public bodies?

Public authorities are only required to make existing data available; there is no obligation for them to generate new data.

The public sector will cover the costs associated with upgrading data publication through APIs and will no longer charge fees for reusing high-value datasets (HVDs).

While there may be some impact from these changes, the benefits derived from improved data availability and usability within the public sector, as well as reduced administrative burdens related to handling reuse requests, negotiating licenses, and processing charges, will help mitigate it. The Commission also provides support to public sector bodies through specific actions under the Digital Europe Programme.

The list of HVDs was created collaboratively with the Member States and underwent a comprehensive Impact Assessment, only including data where the benefits resulting from its free provision far exceed the associated costs.

Part 2: 

In part 2 of the HVDs series, we present the main points from the recent study conducted by the European Commission “Identification of data themes for the extensions of public sector High-Value Datasets”. Public sector bodies and agencies are advised to refer to the study’s findings to identify potential HVDs right from the beginning.

Go to part 2

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