[Versió catalana]

Emilio Garcia Garcia

Technical Advisor
Ministry of Finances and Public Administration


Salvador Luis Soriano Maldonado

Technical Advisor
Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism


Abstract [Resum] [Resumen]

The reuse of public sector information is the cornerstone in the Open data and Open Government strategies.  The European authorities are promoting public information reuse policies as a pillar for the digital economy and a lever for democratic transparency in the European Union. The genesis of the reuse of public sector information policies in Spain has been the Aporta Project, established in 2008 and coordinated by the Ministry of Finances and Public Administration and the Ministry for Industry, Energy and Tourism of the Spanish National Government. The project since its inception aims to promote reuse of public sector information culture in Spain and benefits are being reaped now in the form of a vibrant infomediary sector and a growing number of open data initiatives in all the government layers. A major renewal of the reuse of public sector information strategy in Spain was launched in 2011 following the guidelines of The European eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 and The Digital Agenda for Europe, the new objective is maximizing the public value of the public sector information through its massive reusage.

1 The genesis of an innovative policy

Beyond any discussion, the open data concept is at the heart of some of the most innovative initiatives in Public Administration. Easy access to public data promotes at same time accountability through transparency and economic growth through the development of information services by third parties.

Well before open data policies began to appear in political and economical newspapers and magazines, the European Commission proposed to the European Council and the European Parliament the approval of a Directive on the ReUse of Public Sector Information (European Commission, 2002). It was the year 2002, and the proposal was the final milestone of a road started in the year 1999 with the Green paper on PSI in the Information Society (European Commission, 1999). Although some parts of this paper could sound naive, especially taking into account some of the current policy debates around open data and its potential business models for the public and private sector, it lays on the table questions that are still under discussion now:

However, this founding paper looked more worried with the access issues than with the economical value of public sector information. A couple of years have to pass until a first intuitive economic value for public sector information appeared, not by itself but in connection with the digital contents sector then estimated in 433 billion of Euros or  5% of European Union GDP (European Commission, 2001, p. 4). Public Sector Information appears for the first time as just another possible source of information for the digital content sector, and therefore susceptible to be sold in the form of value added products and services.  As "an information service based on tourist information, traffic data and/or environmental data that stops at the border will lose much of its appeal" (European Commission, 2001, p. 5), the European Commission put forward the case for extending the single market concept to the field of the reuse of public sector information. The instrument proposed for the Commission to overcome the fragmented public sector information market was a legal instrument, which main feature would be "a general right to re-use public sector information:  whenever public sector information is generally accessible, commercial re-use should be possible" (European Commission, 2001, p. 11). Nevertheless, the legal instrument finally adopted did not reach that objective.

In the end, the principle of the Directive 2003/98/EC (European Union, 2003) was that "Member States shall ensure that, where the re-use of documents held by public sector bodies is allowed, these documents shall be re-usable for commercial or non-commercial purposes" (European Parliament; European Council, 2003, art. 3). Plainly speaking, the Directive did not oblige to allow the reuse of public sector information but the provision of public sector information in equal conditions. The Directive "built on and was without prejudice to the existing access regimes in the Member States" (European Union, 2003, article 1.3), in a respectful way with the copyright and privacy issues and charges were allowed as long as "the total income from supplying and allowing re-use of documents shall not exceed the cost of collection, production, reproduction and dissemination, together with a reasonable return on investment" (European Union, 2003, article 6).

Although the Directive finally adopted was not as ambitious as initially planned by the European Commission, some Member States failed to implement its national transposition by the deadline established for 1 July of 20051. In the case of Spain, the transposition of the Directive was adopted on November 2007 (Spanish Government, 2007), in the form of the Law 37/2007 on the reuse of public sector information.

The Spanish Law establishes an ample definition of public sector information which covers not only traditional documents but also data sets (Spanish Government, 2007, article 3, paragraph 2). It defines the types of conditions under which re-use can be authorized and it sets the rules applicable to charging.  Both process and conditions for re-use have to be established in a transparent and open manner (Spanish Government, 2007, article 4, paragraph 3). For example, the Law foresees the possibility of making PSI freely available under no restrictions. Moreover, the Law establishes that public administrations should make re-use easier by creating lists and indexes accessible online, with the aim to facilitate the identification of public information resources.

2 Aporta Project: Towards a culture of reusability

The approval of the Law 37/2007 by the Spanish Parliament signaled the start for the development of the reuse of public sector information policies in Spain. However, it was clear from the very next day after the approval that making effective the reuse of public sector information would demand more efforts than the mere adoption of a new law. The introduction of new ideas and concepts is always a complex issue in Public Administration, creating awareness and dissemination actions are highly needed in order to have success in this task. The above reasons were behind the launch of Aporta Project. The very name was chosen as an spearhead for the promotion of the new culture: "Aporta" means to share in Spanish language.

The Aporta project was launched in October 2008 coordinated by Ministry of Finances and Public Administration and the Ministry for Industry, Energy and Tourism and within the framework of the Avanza Plan, part of the National Plan of Reforms designed by the Government to follow the Lisbon Strategy in 2000. The Avanza Plan2 was focused on obtaining the appropriate use of the ICT, with the purpose of making successful an economical growing model based on the competitiveness and productivity increase, the citizen's quality of life improvement and the social and regional equality. The OECD has remarked the Avanza Plan as a case where "a strong policy and governance framework have been the key for the success of information society policies" (OECD, 2010).

The main goal of Aporta Project was the promotion of a culture of reuse of public sector information, raising awareness of the importance and value of public sector information and reuse among government, citizens and businesses. The project was based on three pillars that reinforced each other:

To sum up, the project looked forward to unleash the potential of the reuse of public sector information in Spain through the convergence of private and public initiatives in the field, hoping to be the catalyzer of what then was an incipient community.

The Aporta Project has combined from its start the use of online and face to face actions. One of the first steps taken was setting up an Internet portal for the initiative (www.aporta.es), which acted as a hub for online material related with the reuse of public sector information. Besides the different pieces of the legal framework in the European and National level, education materials were published. Some of this material has been praised for its usefulness and innovation by other government (The National Archives of United Kingdom, 2011) and international projects (Spain takes the lead, 2009). The portal has doubled the number of visits per year, jumping from less than 20.000 to 40.000. Nearly 20% of the visits are currently from outside Spain showing a growing valuation of the initiative in the international arena. The Internet presence of the Aporta Project is complemented with the usage of social media channels like twitter (@proyectoaporta).

Although the online activities of the Aporta Project have been behind its widespread knowledge, the promotion of a community requires also face to face encounters. With a first stage where the axis were workshops to showcase best practices on open data and reuse of public data, the project evolved to organize a yearly international event with the participation of a mix of experts coming from the European landscape and the different government tiers in Spain.

After three years of life, the project could be considered as an example on how to promote the reuse of public sector information from the scratch. Nearly all of the 17 regional Spanish Governments have launched an opendata portal and there are also some important initiatives in the local level3. Although it is difficult to highlight some of these portals in the subnational level, some of them have also obtain recognition in the international stage by themselves, as it is the case of Opendata Euskadi and Opendata Barcelona.

The impact of Aporta Project has gone beyond the limits of the Public Sector and its outcomes are also visible in the civic society and industry, a consequence of its closeness to both. On one hand, several NGOs have rooted in the area of data journalism and the promotion of open data initiative, the most important the Spanish branch of Pro Bono Publico which organizes in 2010 and 2011 an open data applications contest called Abre Datos and has promoted transparency initiatives as the Spanish version of "Where does my money goes", ¿Dónde van mis impuestos?. On the other hand, a vibrant infomediary sector has appeared from the thin air and its business activity is estimated in 550-650 million of Euros (Proyecto Aporta, 2011) equivalent to the revenues of mobile roaming services obtained by telecom operators (Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones, 2010). It should be highlighted this business volume it is still far away of its full estimated potential of 2000 million of Euros (Commission of the European Communities, 2006) and its value is currently under review. After a revisit to the definition of an infomediary company, the economical value of the sector has been reduced and estimated in 330-550 million of Euros in 2012 (Proyecto Aporta, 2012).

By the end of 2010, it was clear that jumping to a new stage was needed. The alpha version of the Public Sector Information Catalogue4 included in the Aporta Project portal was in the need of an evolution and the infomediary sector demanded new rules for sustain its growth. At the same time, in the European Union both the Digital Agenda for Europe and The European eGovernment Action Plan gave an strategic value to increase the availability of public sector information for reuse, demanding the European Union Member States to reinforce and relaunch its policies in this field.

3 The renewal of the ReUse of PSI Strategy in Spain

On July 16th 2010, the Council of Ministers approved the 2011-2015 Strategy for Plan Avanza 2. This second stage gives continuity to Plan Avanza, and it contains an update of the objectives and actions in the field of the reuse of public sector information. After the first stage where creating awareness of the strategic importance of public data had been the main goal, the new objective set in the plan was maximizing the public value of the public sector information through its massive reusage. To achieve this objective, increasing the visibility and accessibility of public data and removing the barriers for its reusage have been addressed at an increasing pace.

After three years of the approval of the Law 37/2007, several barriers were still on place in Spain5. The main obstacles identified were the uncertainty of which public information was reusable, a fragmented landscape of conditions for reuse of public data, the lack of a clear assignation of roles and responsibilities on the provision chain of information in public entities and the scarce use of open standards and machine-readable formats in the information available. In order to overcome these barriers, the adoption of a Royal Decree to spell out the implementations details of the law was launched in December 2010, which started with a participatory process about a first draft of the Royal Decree. Inputs from the public and private sectors, as well as from civil society, enriched the initial text and the result was one of the most advanced legal frameworks on the matter, including an early alignment with some aspects of the proposal for the renewal of the Directive 2003/98/EC launched by the European Commission a year later.

The new piece of legal framework was adopted as the "Royal Decree 1495/2011 implementing Law 37/2007 of 16 November, on re-use of public sector information, for the national public sector"6. The main goal of the Royal Decree is to fulfill the goal that "data should be open and available by default and exceptions should be justified" .In this regard, the Royal Decree regulates the following aspects:

As provided in the Law 37/2007, the provisions concerning the re-use of public sector information do not change the rules governing access to administrative documents enshrined in Spanish legal system, but provide added value to the right of access contemplating the basic regulatory system for re-use by others of information held by the public sector for commercial or noncommercial ends, in a framework of fair competition, regulating the minimum conditions for a second level of information processing that is generated by public bodies.

However, maximizing the public value of public sector information requires not only removing the barriers for its reuse, it demands in the first place making this information visible and accessible. This is the objective of the new Public Sector Information Catalogue datos.gob.es, which has its legal base in the Royal Decree 1495/2011. What is more, cooperation in feeding and updating the catalogue is mandatory for all public sector bodies and departments belonging to the state public sector according to Royal Decree 1495/2007.

The portal datos.gob.es is the evolution of the web site initially developed for Aporta Project and its beta version was launched in October 2011. However, it offers a more attractive design7 and adds new tools for promotion, Web 2.0 participation and awareness on the benefits of reusing. Thanks to these functions, users can easily share the released data in datos.gob.es, the datasets from the Catalogue, the sample applications and latest news about PSI world. This design has been awarded by the EU LAPSI project as the most user friendly design of a Public Sector Information portal in January 2011 (Futia, 2012).

The portal datos.gob.es fulfils all relevant international requirements on design, accessibility, usability and web security. It includes general features from the Web Architecture and the One Web. It also follows W3C recommendations on open data publishing for governments and it is based on standard technologies XHTML and CSS. The software platform chosen for its implementation was Drupal as CMS and Virtuozzo as its semantic platform.8

Both, the new rules included in the Royal Decree 1495/2011 and the renewed Catalogue of Public Sector Information, provide a solid foundation for an explosion on the reuse of public data in Spain.

4 Looking forward to the future

As a Member State of the European Union, the future of the reuse of public sector information policies in Spain is heavily influenced by the policies and legal proposals designed by the European Commission. However, this situation neither implies a passive attitude from the Spanish authorities nor a wait-and-see what is proposed from Brussels. Spanish Government maintain in the eGovernment area, in general, and the reuse of public data field, in particular a continuous early alignment with the European Union policies, underpinned in the active participation in the working groups set by the Commission and the Council,  pushing in these fora for the acceptance of its own best practices.

Traces of the early alignment of the Spanish policies with the EU policies could be found in the recent proposal of amending of Directive 2003/98/EC from the European Commission  (European Commission, 2011b). This proposal was published in December 2011, and among the new features highlighted by the European Commission in its press release (European Commission, 2011a) was:

All except the last one were already part of the Spanish Legal framework after the adoption of the Royal Decree 1495/2011.

The advanced position of Spain in the field of the reuse of public sector information policies reinforces also the strength of the Spanish open data community. Apart from the growing participation of members of the community in international events, a clear sign of this strength has been the campaign for a single open data license in the European Union. Spurred by the definition in the Royal Decree of a single license (legal notice) for the reuse of public sector information, a group of open data activists called in February 2012 for the inclusion of the same provision in the revision of the EU Directive9. Through the use of different blogs and the twitter hashtag #1ODataLicenseEU, the open data activists managed to collect online10 support from different personalities in the EU11. By the end of the month, the Commissar Neelie Kroes welcomed the initiative in her blog and announced the future development of guidelines for licensing open government data in Europe.

Nevertheless, more efforts need to be done in order to reap all the benefits of the open data momentum in Spain. 2012 will be the critical year in the implementation of the Royal Decree 1495/2011 and a close monitoring of the advances should be done in order to make its promises a reality. The recent incorporation of Spain to the OpenGovernment Partnership it is also a clear sign of the Spanish Government with the Open Data movement. Beyond 2012, the transposition of the amendment of the EU Directive will provide a renewed impulse.

The economic benefits of reuse of public sector information policies and its contribution to a more transparent government are at hand in Spain.


Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones (2010). Annual Report of Spanish Telecommunication Market. Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones, 2010. <http://informecmt.cmt.es/en/docs/2010/EN%20-%20ANNUAL%20REPORT%20CMT%202010.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

European Commission (2011a). Digital Agenda: Commission's Open Data Strategy, Questions & answers. European Commission,  MEMO 11/891, December 2011.  <http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/891&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

European Commission (2011b). Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council amending Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information, European Commission, December 2011. <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/directive_proposal/2012/proposal_directive.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

European Commission (2009). Study on exclusive arrangements on Public Sector Information. <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/facilitating_reuse/exlusive_agreements/index_en.htm>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

European Commission (2006). Measuring European Public Sector Information Resources (MEPSIR). European Commission, June 2006, <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/actions_eu/policy_actions/mepsir/index_en.htm>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

European Commission (2002). Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the re-use and commercial exploitation of public sector documents. European Commission, June 2002, COM(2002) 207 final. <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/directive_proposal/en.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

European Commission (2001). Communication eEurope 2002: Creating a EU Framework for the Exploitation of PSI. European Commission, October 2001, COM (2001) 607. <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/eeurope/2001_607_en.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

European Commission (1999). Green paper on PSI in the Information Society, European Commission, January 1999, COM(1998)585.  <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/green_paper/gp_en.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

European Parliament; European Council (2003). "Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information", Official Journal of the European Union, 31-12-2003. <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/directive/psi_directive_en.pdf>. [Accessed: [04/11/2011]

European Union (2003). “Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information”, Official Journal of the European Union, 31-12-2003. <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/docs/pdfs/directive/psi_directive_en.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

Futia, Giuseppe. “Diffondere la cultura del riutilizzo: il ruolo di un portale di dati pubblici”, La Stampa, 06/02/2012. <http://www.lastampa.it/2012/02/06/tecnologia/diffondere-la-cultura-del-riutilizzo-il-ruolo-di-un-portale-di-dati-pubblici-j0L2DJ3OaHAJNxdO17TkdL/pagina.html>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

The National Archives of United Kingdom (2011). The United Kingdom Report on the  Re-use of Public Sector Information: 2010: unlocking PSI potential. The National Archives of United Kingdom, page 17, 2011. 23 p. <http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/psi-report.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

OECD (2010). Good Governance for Digital Policies: How to Get the Most Out of ICT : The Case of Spain's Plan Avanza, OECD,  November 2010. 221 p. ISBN 978-92-64-07267-1. <http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/governance/good-governance-for-digital-policies-how-to-get-the-most-out-of-ict_9789264031104-en>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

Proyecto Aporta. Characterization study of the infomediary sector in Spain. Proyecto Aporta, June 2011, <http://www.datos.gob.es/datos/sites/default/files/aporta_infomediary%20sector_2011.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

Proyecto Aporta. Characterization study of the infomediary sector in Spain. Proyecto Aporta, June 2012, <http://datos.gob.es/datos/sites/default/files/files/estudio_infomediario/Info_sector%20infomediario_2012.pdf>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

Spain takes the lead. ePSI Platform, European Public Sector Information Platform, June 2009. <http://epsiplatform.eu/content/spain-takes-lead>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

Spanish Government (2007). “Ley 37/2007, de 16 de noviembre, sobre reutilización de la información del sector público”. BOE, 17/11/2007, <http://www.boe.es/aeboe/consultas/bases_datos/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2007-19814>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012]. (Spanish Government Official Gazette, Text in Spanish Language).

Received: 08/10/2012. Accepted: 04/11/2012.


1 The complete transposition of the Directive 2003/98/EC in the EU Member States did not finish until May 2008. See: <http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/psi/actions_ms/implementation/index_en.htm>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

2 Avanza means in Spanish language “going beyond”. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

3 A collection of Open Data initiatives in Spanish Regional and Local Governments is available at: <http://datos.gob.es/datos/?q=node/237>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

4 This alpha versión was launched during the Spanish Presidency of European Union in March 2010.

5 An analysis of these barriers is contained in Spanish (Characterization study of the infomediary sector in Spain, 2011) and European studies (European Commission, 2009). 

6 The non official English translation of the Royal Decree 1495/2011 is available in <http://datos.gob.es/datos/sites/default/files/files/17nov2011%20English%20Unofficial_%20BOE_A_2011_17560_EN%20RD_1495_2011.pdf>

7 The design of the portal was the result of the collaboration with members of the civic society (Pro Bono Publico) and the industry (ASEDIE, association for the companies that work in the infomediary sector).

8 Following a policy of openness and sharing all its results, the technical details of the platform used are available in the portal. See: http://datos.gob.es/datos/?q=node/1517  (Text in Spanish).

9 The call for a single open data license in the EU is still available at several blogs, see for instance <http://apunteselectronicos.blogspot.com.es/2012/02/call-for-single-opendata-licence-in-eu.html>.

10 The support for the initiative were collected in the platform Actuable.es, now part of change.org. They managed to collect more than 600 online signatures in one month. http://actuable.es/peticiones/say-to-neeliekroeseu-we-want-single-opendata-licence-in-the>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].

11 Among the supporters of the initiative were Jordi Sevilla (former Spanish Minister of Public Administrations), Patxi Lopez (President of the Basque Country Regional Government) and Carlos Martinez Gorriarán (Member of the Spanish National Parliament). A complete lists of the more relevant supporters could be found at <http://www.caldocasero.es/2012/02/mas-de-400-personas-ya-han-firmado-la.html>. [Accessed: 04/11/2012].