Challenges of open data: procured data

The following post is an excerpt from my thesis entitled Linked open data for public sector information.
The public sector is not only considered to be unable to deliver applications in a cost-efficient way, it may also lack the abilities to collect some data. There are several kinds of data, including geospatial surveys, that are difficult to gather using the means available in the public sector. The solution that public bodies adopt for such cases is to outsource data collection to private companies. Using the standard procedures of public procurement, the public bodies contract a provider to produce the requested data.
The challenge starts to appear when commercial data suppliers recognize the value of the procured data and become aware of the possibilities for reuse of such data that might generate revenue for them. Hence the suppliers offer the data under the terms of licences that prevent public sector bodies to share the data with the public, since releasing the data as open data would hamper the suppliers’ prospects to resell it. Should the public sector require a licence that allows to open the procured data, it would markedly increase the contract price.
Privatisation of collection of public sector data might be a way to achieve a better efficiency [1], yet without a significant investment it prohibits releasing the data as open data. It leaves open the question asking if public sector bodies should buy in expensive data to share it with others or if the infrastructure of the public sector should be enhanced to cater for acquisition of data that would be difficult to collect without such improvements.
Note: The topic of public sector data obtained through public procurement is the subject of a previous blog post.


  1. YIU, Chris. A right to data: fulfilling the promise of open public data in the UK [online]. Research note. March 6th, 2012 [cit. 2012-03-06]. Available from WWW: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/publications/category/item/a-right-to-data-fulfilling-the-promise-of-open-public-data-in-the-uk

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