Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Open government data, though emerging in various communities and governments, is a resource the full potential of which is as of yet largely untapped. Many public organizations collect a broad range of different, heterogeneous data in order to perform their tasks. The government itself is particularly significant in this respect, both because of the quantity and centrality of the data it collects, but also because most of that government data is public data by law, or already paid by the citizens via taxes. There are many areas where we can expect open data to be of value, and where examples of how it has been used already exist. There are also many different groups of people and organizations who can benefit from the availability of Austrian open government data, including the government itself. At the same time it is impossible to predict precisely how and where value will be created in the future: the nature of innovation is that developments often comes from unlikely places and originally unforeseen usage. Leveraging and improving the accessibility of Open Data is a crucial factor in this accelerating this potential. It is already possible to point to a large number of areas where open government data is creating value: * Transparency and democratic control * Participation * Self-empowerment * Improved or new private products and services * Innovation * Improved efficiency of government services * Improved effectiveness of government services * Impact measurement of policies * New knowledge from combined data sources and patterns in large data volumes Economically, open data is of great importance as well. Several studies have estimated the economic value of open data at several tens of billions of Euros annually in the EU alone. This economic value is particularly obvious at the level of SMEs. New products and companies are re-using open data. However, one of the remaining problem of Open data in its current form remains heterogeneity and data being scattered across various sources and public organizations who are all willing to open up their data, but neither have the technical and personal resources, nor the authority to resolve these issues in isolation. This leads to potential inconsistencies and quality deficiencies in open data, also often criticized in public discussions about open data. Besides quality issues, coordination of Open Data efforts at a hierarchical (national, but also transnational) level is needed to harmonize Open data, leverage agreement on common meta-data, and provide a platform that by itself enables participation to involve the community in resolving quality issues and harmonization. The Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria as an organization is ideally positioned to host and lead the development of such an effort * being one oft the biggest owner of public data itself * being in a position to funnel and coordinate nationwide open data initiatives by other public bodies (at community or regional level * being in a position to represent and coordinate the alignment of Open data efforts beyond Austria in collaboration with other national level open data efforts.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The vivid and fast changing nature of open government data needs a sleek and fast responding governance structure, which is not provided by the traditional eGovernment standardization bodies in Austria. As a consequence the Cooperation Open Government Data Austria (in short: Cooperation OGD Austria) was designed. Cooperation OGD Austria is a loosely coupled cooperation by federal representatives, provinces, cities and municipalities. This body is not a formal entity but consists of so called "ambitious and knowing" persons who have an interest in the future of Open Government Data (=unconventional cooperation without political mandate). The core assumption is framed by OGD principles, effective organizational and technical frameworks. The Open Knowledge Forum Austria, the Danube University Krems, Department for E-Governance and the “” society act as advisors to the Cooperation OGD Austria. Finally, the Austrian federal chancellery coordinates the Cooperation OGD Austria. The Cooperation defines the overall OGD strategy with the intention to catalyze Austrian’s Open Data efforts and address the above issues as follows: 1. First and foremost: improving access to public services and data 2. Leveraging participation: i. Leveraging re-use and coordinating the community of users and application developers ii. Enabling data quality monitoring & community feedback 3. Making the data itself more usable (by rigorous meta-data and searchability) 4. Building the interface to a larger European data ecosystem, opening up to its users links to other OGD efforts. The Austrian open government data strategy includes: * A central open meta-data portal should increase transparency and accountability of services of all involved public bodies, even if the effort was not coordinated upfront at political level, but rather developed by the administration itself. * Nationwide overview about all available Austrian data government data sets. * Improve access to open data by lowering barriers also for users with a non-technical background by providing search functionality in the data catalog and guiding and coordinating open data efforts from various national public bodies at regional, community but also federal level in a central, easily accessible central portal. * Fostering cross-border open government data with a special focus on the German speaking region: D-A-CH-LI (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein). Therefore the Cooperation OGD Austria aligned their open data initiatives and standards with their colleagues. * The overall goal was the promotion of open data as means to increase efficiency timeliness of data and services, e.g. by opening up data for the community to enable services being developed in the open that otherwise could not be established due to lack of public resources. * Fostering internal cooperation between single administration units by delivering them a better insights and possibilities for cross administration cooperation. * Additionally, the involvement of the community should also help improve the quality of data within public organizations due to the establishment of a feedback cycle with the community, thereby increasing citizen participation in public administration. Target audience: The target audience is more or less the whole society. In the first step application developer and people, who are able to analyze and/or visualize data. These groups of people act as intermediates who deliver the results (apps and visuals) to the whole society.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The Cooperation OGD Austria is an innovative cooperation: despite its informal nature it was able to standardize open government data in Austria in a “grass roots” effort. Meta-data standards were developed and used in the local projects of the Cooperation members and all later following organizations joined and accepted these standards. Whilst in many OGD efforts proprietary licenses are used, the Cooperation OGD Austria agreed to use an established license - Creative Commons, CC BY - for all datasets. A central OGD portal makes all integrated and hosted sources amenable to reuse and combination with other open data sources adhering to its standards. The initiative doesn’t end at the national border and government data: * the Austrian Federal Chancellery started to harmonize open metadata descriptions with the Germany Ministry of Interior: the Austrian and German metadata schemes are now aligned. Coordination and consultancy to other countries is underway where Austria plays a spearheading role * a parallel portal for non-public open data providers (using the same standard technologies and meta-data standards) is currently being set up in order to provide an additional platform for private entities and to leverage, participate in and enrich the overall Austrian Open Data landscape.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The implementation plan is documented in the attached implementation plan. Roughly, it can be viewed as divided in the following phases/milestones: 1) Loose cooperation between federal levels and different public institutions Preparatory workshops were held to identify stakeholders and potential of a common Austrian Open Government Data Portal and its synergetic effects in bundling and aligning existing efforts around open data by Austrian governmental organizations at different levels. For this purpose, representatives of the chancellery not only participated in workshops organized by the respective open data initiatives, but also organized workshops itself and became a coordinating force among the open government data initiatives in Austria. 2) Cooperation OGD Austria founded The Cooperation OGD Austria was founded in July 2011 together by representatives of the chancellery, as well as the Austrian cities of Vienna, Linz, and Graz for the purpose of aligning standards for open data publishing, creating a common portal and more efficient coordination of all stakeholders. 3) Standardization meta-data and license Several versions of the jointly founded Cooperation OGD Austria metadata working group aligned metadata structure to describe OGD datasets were then published, which also includes the agreement of a common license to ease access and combinability of open datasets to together with representatives of universities, research institutes, companies, and OGD publishers. 4) OGD Portal (Beta) As an additional measure the OGD Portal has launched awards to incentivize the development of Apps on top of OGD and promotes Apps actively through its portal. The central portal collects all published datasets by public bodies in the cooperation and is open for more organizations to join. This includes various technical features that help to achieve its goals. * a searchable Data Catalog supported by standards (CKAN, a common meta-data catalog and a common license model) * An application registry (that includes documentation which datasets have been used by which apps) * Soft integration of social media (by adding social media "like" buttons in a 2-click fashion for added privacy) * Links to other open government data efforts * contact and feedback facilities * FAQs 5) Cross Border meta-data Standardization Based on the initiative of the Austrian OGD Portal been reconciled with German OGD initiatives and the Swiss OGD portal has agreed to adhere to the same standards. The Austrian OGD standards thereby contribute to reconciliation and harmonization of Open Data efforts bottom-up within Europe (as a complementary effort to top-down EU directives such as INSPIRE) in a dynamic, participatory manner, involving various stakeholders and user groups. Ongoing and future activities are further documented in item 12. (lessons learned) below.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Stakeholders were identified and involved in the initiative as follows: 1) Preparatory Activities Different stakeholders were identified and involved in preparatory activities like stakeholder workshops, namely, political decision makers, civil society (citizens and user communities), economy and public administration. Additional groups were involved journalists, media and science (universities, as well as other private and public research institutions). The goal of preparatory workshops was to identify requirements of the primary stakeholder groups as well as the potential to involve the secondary stakeholder groups for dissemination and public relation to make the effort and portal known to a wider community and help building up an active user group. 2) Cooperation OGD Austria As for public administrations under the coordination of the Cooperation OGD Austria, this involves besides the chancellery as a coordinator, the cities of Vienna, Linz, Salzburg and Graz, several federal states and single communities down to the level of small villages such as the community of Engerwitzdorf (pop. ~8400), which contributes 122 datasets. 3) Stakeholder Involvement – Community Management: One of the crucial success factors is community management. Therefore, the City of Vienna established an event, which was organized every three month with the aim bringing together open data community and officials, adopted by other communities in similar models. 4) Cross boarder Involvement: At international level, the initiative is closely aligned and plays a coordinating role among data portals by its neighbors (Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein), where the Cooperation represents the interests of federal states in Austria, communities, ministries and its user community. All stakeholders from politicians, official public bodies, companies through to the open data community have been involved from the early beginning 2011 till today.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The members of the Cooperation ODG Austria and its stakeholders (including publishing organizations and community resources) mobilized the following resources: 1) Cooperation OGD Austria Every member was responsible for his own open government data portal. The standardization process was also financed by cost sharing; the organizations allocated personal resources for the standardization. The ongoing process of coordination of planning is also financed by the members. 2) OGD Portal Development & Implementation The Austrian federal chancellery has contributed with a workforce of 3 people at 30% to facilitate the administrative setup of the open government data portal from October 2010 until April 2011, launch of the beta version of the OGD portal. The federal computing center did the technical implementation, which required about 6 person months. The technical implementation was financed by the Ministry of Finance. 3) OGD Portal operational phase Two people of the Federal Chancellery are working part time (around 50%); they are responsible for the coordination and further development of the portal and the standards. The technical operations is done by the federal computing center and is charged around 100.000 Euros per annum, this includes running costs (hard- and software) and small budget for technical innovation and implementation. The annual running costs are shared by the chancellery and the City of Vienna. 4) Community Resources Public organizations, companies, research partners and open data community have mobilized at least the same amount of voluntary work to contribute to the effort, e.g. support of the standardization process, organization of “bar camps”, feedback loop for the OGD portal. Furthermore a wide number of open data apps (around 140) were developed and submitted to the portal. Based on a survey an average of 100 development hours effort per app, so additional workforce has been mobilized. It should be emphasized that a vast majority of the effort contributing to the Cooperation OGD Austria from all stakeholders is not accountable in numbers and based on voluntary and community contributions.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
1) Meta Data Standardization: The most successful output was the meta-data standard, meanwhile harmonized with the German and adopted by the Swiss national OGD initiatives. A unified meta-data standard is the solid base for every national OGD portal and prerequisite for cross-border activities. 2) License Standardization: The Austrian OGD initiative is one of the few initiatives, which was able to agree on one international established license for data publishing. The decision to commonly use Creative Commons (CC by) license was an important output of the initiative, because application developers or users of the data exactly knew what they are allowed to do with datasets and it enables them to mix the different datasets, without the need to take legal advice. 3) Meta-Data Portal: Based on these two OGD initiative outputs the OGD portal makes the cooperation happen. Administrations deliver open data sets and the open data community develops applications and visualizations. The success of the portal is measurable by in between 174 Apps and over 1000 datasets. Seemless integration and alignment as well as a central portal between regional,community and federal data providers could be achieved and collected in a single portal. 4) Cross border Meta-Data Harmonization: OGD initiatives shouldn’t stop the national borders, because people often develop for regions and are not interested in national limitations. Therefore Austrian and German OGD initiates harmonized their meta-data standards, which enables the open data communities to harvest meta-data and get a quick overview about existing datasets in both countries. 5) Various small but invaluable success stories include: (i) New business models: the RIS (legal information system) dataset, that led to a successful App, now used by countless lawyers across Austria and has boosted the SME originally built the app. (ii) unexpected use and increased equity: a dataset and app for locating public toilets has found a community of patients who found their quality of life increased and who have sent a testimonial to the portal providers. (iii) feeding back apps into public administration: the public transport of the city of Linz did not have resources to build their own timetable and route planning app. The data was provided as OGD and used by a successful app, now bought back and sustainably maintained by public administration. (iv) improving public data quality: a dataset including geodata by the city of Vienna that contained errors could be corrected by community feedback.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The following performance indicators were developed by the Cooperation OGD Austria for measuring the progress for the different local open data portals and for the central OGD portal. These indicators facilitate the comparison of the different open data providers. 1) Quantity of Datasets A typical indicator for OGD initiatives is dataset quantity. On the portal the users can easily find out how many datasets have been published per organization. This stimulates an unofficial competition between publishing organizations. Austria’s Open data policy is compared to other countries fairly cautious; whilst in some of the Anglo-American countries often "data-tsunamis" were released, the Austrian and German approach was more defensive, publishing datasets stepwise in several phases, but steadily increasing datasets that can be kept up-to-date in a sustainable manner. 2) Quality of Datasets: Quality monitoring is based on the feedback from the open data community. Several options to provide feedback include a Wiki, E-Mail, Twitter and real life meetings. The quality of the datasets was very high, according to this evaluation by the open data community and also the community feedback helped to increase the dataset quality in particular cases, where errors were reported and fixed. 3) Quantity of Applications A very interesting indicator for OGD initiatives is the quantity of applications or visualizations, which are using open data sets. Therefore the initiative defined in the netiquette. That people who use the datasets should list their application on the OGD-Portal with links to the integrated data sets. This delivers two indicators: First a general overview about the quantity of applications (currently 175 ) and second the apps in combination with the used datasets also listed on the portal. This offers an indirect feedback about the quality and (un)popularity of different datasets. 4) Ratio datasets to applications The ratio between released datasets and applications is one of most interesting indicators in the field of OGD, because it delivers the effectiveness of an open data initiative, because the goal of open data initiatives is to create an impact for society through valuable applications and visualizations – e.g. the City of Vienna provides 223 datasets used by 111 applications, listed at the portal, cf. 5) Download statistics After evaluating download statistics and Web traffic in the initial phase, interviews with various stakeholders confirmed that these metrics do not reflect actual usage and uptake of open data and were discontinued after the initial phase.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
One of the main obstacles for setting up the initiative was the first attempt to set it up through established political instruments and channels in a top-down manner. It turned out to be a much better strategy eventually to grow the initiative bottom-up in a loose cooperation between the already active public organizations with a positive attitude towards OGD. Within some political institutions contacted, a certain skepticism against transparency and the cost of maintaining open data in a sustainable manner was present, and not all of these could be convinced to open up their data. The remedy was to set up the whole initiative as a “grass-roots” loosely coupled initiative, eventually also attracting organizations that were initially sceptic. Another difficult factor is the cost of data, for instance, particular institutions selling data at the moment (at production cost, i.e. without making profit, were not in a position to join, since opening up their data would mean that potentially the data curation costs could no longer be covered). At the longer run, and given increased awareness of the benefits of OGD, it is one goal of the present initiative to demonstrate increased return of investment by opening data, also in cooperation with science and research institutions participating in the stakeholder group and push political support needed here to cover such costs in the future by e.g. tax money. Studies and information campaigns along these lines are underway, also backed up by organizations that have opened up their data and witness return of investment, where testimonials shall be collected to convince more stakeholders.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The following benefits are the result of a study, which was done by the Danube-University Krems for the Cooperation OGD Austria, cf. (in German). The focus of the study was to evaluate the social value of the OGD strategy for different target group. Internal OGD stakeholders The majority of the participants (32 out of 40) perceive the implementation of the OGD strategy as beneficial, especially heads of department agree on this. The heads of department believe that OGD provides a number of advantages, e.g. higher efficiency and availability of the data sets on the official OGD platform (instead of responding to demands for data). This helps improve customer friendliness and customer focus, and in turn also improves the image of public administration. Given the common data basis, OGD allows for the comparison of data as well as an understanding of content and structure. Interpretation errors could be avoided, and the departments would be able to focus on improving the administrative processes. The quality of data can also be improved as citizens report errors they identify. External OGD stakeholders: Public administration itself is seen as the main beneficiary of OGD, particularly in regard to improved error reporting and, in order to efficiently supply OGD, by administrations need to invest in new and improved automated data services. Additional value is created by the improved perception of the public administration’s reputation. The interviewees stated that OGD had a positive effect on the public image as well, where the public image is related to higher conformability, government activities, higher transparency, better quality, efficiency and effectiveness. 18 out of 27 externals stakeholder survey participants perceive OGD as beneficial for their work activities, especially scientists and researchers. Concerning the question about public value higher efficiency in governmental self-administration leads to economic savings. In the medium and long term, OGD will be implemented by a more intensive coordination of the administration departments, enabled by a stronger connection between departments and units via ICT-based information management. The combination of heterogeneous data sources will lead to new insights if the organizational maturity and the quality of the information management in the agencies could be increased. This will cause a better administration performance with simultaneous cost savings in the medium term. Addressing the question on economic benefits the survey participants and interviewees see OGDs potential as a factor for innovation: The publication of OGD is regarded as a mean towards new enterprises and business models. However, for new business models to emerge, standards (e.g. metadata), which future-proof financial investments, would be required. The biggest benefits are expected for start-ups and business niches. One interviewee mentioned that the use of OGD has led to a 5% increase in sales. Other possible benefits will emerge from outsourcing present government procedures, as a business network and for business cycles. OGD was mentioned as an additional resource for existing business models in the area of data analysis, data handling, data visualization and data integration. Additional indirect value is created through the increased coordination of the target groups, as the public sphere tends to realize only those projects that generate either direct economic market value or fulfill an actual need. For successful OGD implementation an active, a solution orientated attitude, both the economic OGD stakeholders and the administrative entities will be necessary. Concerning questions targeting advantages for democracy and society, increased transparency is seen as a major benefit of releasing OGD. Government, citizens, civil society, NGOs are seen as the major beneficiaries of OGD. In the context of Open Government it is often predicted that more transparent processes will lead to a greater interest in politics. Respondents mentioned that the publication of relevant data in combination with administration structures enables citizens to gain more insights into activities of the authority and, as a result, more possibilities to control administration and politics. A crucial factor in this context is citizens' ability to verify or access sources. The OGD could also contribute to the acceptance, stabilization and legitimization of policy decisions. Transparent processes and greater citizen control may be able to hinder corruption and the irresponsible use of public money. Increasing the power of intermediates would thus lead to increased democratized processes.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The implementation of the initiative is exclusively built upon open source software and components and free to be mirrored by community users. The usage of CKAN as a data catalog software makes the platform transferable and interoperable. Additionally, the existing platform offers interfaces to various existing content management systems (CMS) that allows communities and OGD providers hosting their data on the platform to use and server the data directly from the platform on their websites without the need to provide their own data hosting. Currently, the platform and its concepts are being transferred for setting up a parallel platform under the auspices of Cooperation OGD Austria in collaboration with its partners form economy to set up a platform for private open data, connected to the OGD platform and building on the same standards developed on the OGD Austria platform, for further boosting Open Data and its economic exploitation within Austria. Additionally, the setup and documentation of technical infrastructure are all built with the goal of being exemplary and also usable for other governments of smaller federal republics. Transfer of knowledge and experiences is already actively sought in regular communication with Germany and Switzerland (where alignment and partial transfer e.g. in the used open meta-data standards was achieved), but also with other neighbors.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Lessons Learned: Early on and flexible cooperation between OGD providers from different federal organization and rapid standardization have proven a crucial success factor for the Austrian OGD initiative. In the starting phase of national OGD initiatives it is vital to set up cooperation and to standardize e.g. meta-data or publishing license. Subsequent harmonization of different standards later on is time and cost intensive. Second, the set up of a common portal and building up channels for regular community feedback, thus involving all stakeholders has backed up the effort significantly. Thirdly, the alignment and exchange cross-border with neighbors has proven cross-fertilizing e.g. in terms of aligning meta-data standards across other national OGD initiatives. Recommendations and Goals for the future: Providing tools on the OGD platform, which help to visualize core data sets such as points of interest or time series related data in a user driven fashion are still needed to make the available date more consumable for laypersons. Currently there are no data visualizations provided by the OGD-Portal. Implementation of a cross-department information management system via a common data bus is one important improvement and could foster acceptance among departments and government organizations, because OGD will be part of the daily digital workflow - OGD by Design. The standardization of meta-data was the first step; the next step is the harmonization of dataset structure and comparability of OGD through code lists and thesauri. The departments are autonomous in their decision about formats and structures. The sheer amount of data within the organization, combined with the promise of OGD to be a valuable resource for business intelligence, requires data to be organized in a machine readable and understandable manner. It is a first step towards more sophisticated automated reasoning possibilities to leveraging the potential of business intelligence. The development of appropriate OGD re-financing models is crucial for departments, which are more or less self-financed. Direct finical losses by OGD contributing departments have to be compensated in a way that releasing more data is encouraged rather than punished. So re-financing requires structural changes. Further public relation activities and stakeholder-oriented initiatives carried out by the departments themselves are planned. Those activities shall focus on specific user groups (compare e.g. OG Ontario and the Guidelines on Open Government Data for Citizen Engagement by the United Nations). Education and training programs will have to increasingly account for creative methodologies as well as analytical competences. CC-BY or a comparatively permissive license should be used as the default in OGD according to which beneficiaries of public subsidies have to release their results. With the increased documentation of success stories and testimonials from publishers and consumers of OGD, the initiative aims to publish more data and further increase data quality.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Günther Tschabuschnig
Title:   Open Data Coordinator  
Telephone/ Fax:   +43 1 53115 - 202759
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Ballhausplatz 2
Postal Code:   1014
City:   Vienna
State/Province:   Vienna

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