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Speech: Embracing the open opportunity

European Commission - SPEECH/14/556   17/07/2014

Other available languages: none

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Embracing the open opportunity

Open Knowledge Foundation

Berlin, 17 July 2014

It is a pleasure to be here with you.

You have long championed openness.

That has long inspired, informed and motivated me.

In previous years I have only been able to send my regards via video. Well – those digital tools can be very effective. But it's great to finally be here "in the room".

Let me start with a question: why should we be open?

For me there are three compelling reasons.

First – transparency. Whether it's how your council spends your money – or the results of clinical trials. Being honest and open means better information, better decisions, better governance.

Second – fairness. It's about giving taxpayers back what they've already paid for. From scientific results to traffic information.

What could be more sensible than that?

And most of all – it's about innovation.

The more you share ideas – the more others can build on them.

It's a new way of operating and thinking. This is a lesson I learned very early on in my mandate – it made a big impression. Two young entrepreneurs in Spain were swapping their ideas on a new app – I asked them why they didn't keep their good ideas to themselves. They looked at me like I was ill! "Madam, you are old-fashioned!"

Information can long sit in dusty drawers – but it only gains value when opened up. Turning data into jobs; dust into gold.

That is the promise of the Internet. It is an amazing accelerator for innovation. But you only get the benefits if you are open.

I am proud to have delivered a more open Europe.

First, we have delivered openness for public administrations.

EU law now gives a genuine right to every European to reuse open public information. From any administration in any EU country at any level.

Without complex licensing restrictions.

And without high costs – in almost all cases it can only ever be at marginal cost. And in the digital age – that basically means for free, otherwise something has gone very wrong.

The EU's member states now have one more year to pass those rules into national law.

And today the European Commission is helping them do that: giving guidance on how to pick the data for release, on licensing, on charging, and more. And I hope it will also make your lives easier. Your lives as liberators and users of more open data. That guidance is published online on our website as I speak.

The EU is leading by example with its own data portal. And we are going further – a call for tender for a new pan-European data infrastructure is open until 8 September – and we are looking for the best consortiums with the best proposals. So take a look!

But this needs more than laws and portals. It needs a mindset change from every public administration.

From the Rijksmuseum to the Norwegian weather service – bodies all over Europe are starting to get it. Starting to realise that being as open is, quite simply, part of their function as a public body.

But there is further to go.

As countries transpose new laws, and start to implement them – I hope you will be behind them: advising, encouraging, inspiring. And we want to work with you, and see you work together across borders and languages. We have set up Erasmus for Open Data to support this. Starting with an event in Nantes, France, in September. But if you have an idea for what more we could do – then let us know!

Second, we have delivered for open science.

Sharing and openness have always been an essential part of science. Helping the community examine, compare and learn.

Now we have new ways to do that like never before.

That's why open access to science can be good for citizens, good for scientists, good for society.

This trend comes not from political instruction, but from the bottom up: from scientists themselves. That's as it should be.

But it is a trend we can support. And I am.

Horizon 2020 will offer 80 billion euros for research and innovation. Our biggest ever investment.

And every resulting publication will be openly and freely available. Plus we are making big steps toward opening up more research data too.

Of course – ours is not the only research funding programme in town. And we are calling on member states to open up their national programmes too.

Slowly but surely they are. Across Europe and beyond, countries are realising the benefits and the payback.

This is just the beginning. I'd like to see citizens not just informed about the results of science, but involved and engaged, right from the start.

Better participation for improved impact, and science that delivers for society. That is the promise of open digital science – with implications for assessment, review, access and more. And now you have a chance to "participate" too. Our consultation on 'Science in Transition' is open until the end of September. Have your say on the future of science and go to our site at http://tinyurl.com/opendigitalscience.

Third: we are delivering openness for the internet itself. For too long your telecom operator has had the right to decide what you can or can't access online, and breach net neutrality. I've proposed new rules to safeguard the open internet for all, and end blocking and throttling of services: for the first time ever across the EU. I hope national governments can agree it as a priority, for our connected continent.

And finally – the best investment we can make in our future is education. That too must be open.

It's a crime when teachers are prevented from freely sharing open educational resources. There's so much we can achieve by making every classroom digital. Education that is not off the peg: but made to measure, for every child. That is what we want to achieve through open education.

That shows how copyright rules need to change: but it's just one example. Those rules were designed for a different age, more about limitation and control than creativity and freedom. Holding back ideas from open education to data mining: copyright needs urgent reform.

I could go on about the many ways to be open. Open standards. Open source – my own website now runs on it, I'm proud to say. Open building blocks for new apps – there'll soon be €80 million available for that under our FI-WARE initiative. And so on.

But the point I want to make is: this is mainstream. The topics you are discussing are no longer abstract, just someone's hobby, just talked about in conferences and chatrooms.

Big data is used out there, changing lives, and topping the political agenda.

It isn't something scary. "Data" isn't a four-letter word. Nor is "open". It's something Europe needs to embrace.

There is a whole generation that's grown up with this new open approach. They're starting to make their voices heard.

And people are listening.

Last week I met Matteo Renzi of Italy. He gets it. He is committed to this digital agenda — as he takes the lead as EU Council President. Others like Commission President-designate Juncker are talking about this too. Now let's make sure they stick to it. It cannot just be words. Every Commissioner needs to be able to take advantage of digital opportunity.

Because Europe needs a change of mindset. Every lawmaker, every public body, every vested interest who wants to push back – we need to convince them there's a better way of doing things. An open way.

But I can't do that alone. I need your help.

I've long been inspired by the energy of this movement for open knowledge.

I've been inspired by the commitment of this community.

Most of all, I've been inspired by the positive difference it can make to people's lives across Europe.

I am in office until 31 October. I am intending to fight for these principles every single day until then.

But I know the fight won't stop there. I know you will continue to make that case. That your voice and your message will continue to be heard. Let's show every citizen the open opportunity on offer. And embrace it together. At the end of the day – you have more than 500 million backing your movement. Thank you.


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