which is simplification. It is remarkable how, because of the normal human tendency of making things complex, that goal has been lost as one goes down the value chain.
So is the ePSIplus thematic network working? In answering that question, it is important to keep in mind several facts. First, there are various constraints involved in any network, such as ePSIplus, where participation is voluntary. Second, any project that operates across Europe is quite challenging because it faces a multilingual and multicultural environment. Third, the markets are all at different stages of development, each with a huge range of PSI stakeholders and competition. The public sector is competing with the private sector, and private sector entities are competing with each other. Business strategy and information are generally considered proprietary by the PSI holders.
Furthermore, there is a lack of measurement tools, especially for economic modeling and understanding data apart from the macro level. One key issue is: When the pendulum swings from high charges for obtaining PSI to being free of charge, how is the public task maintained and how much money is involved? If the pendulum suddenly swings, how many companies that have relied on the current model are likely to go out of business? And how is the new model charted over time? While it has been possible to analyze the legal issues, it is more difficult to analyze the economic and social effects. Since this information comes from the people involved in the PSI-related activities, it has been critical to develop better relationships with those in the field.
The project is also looking at trends in order to identify good practices and to determine what can be replicated across member states. For example, if a country has a complaints procedure that is dedicated to reuse, how does it compare with a country that does not have one? What is the effect of having a complaints procedure, and does it result in a measurable difference between the countries? Since the project is only at its midlife, determining the effect of any activity is not easy. The number of PSI stakeholders becoming interested in these topics is definitely growing, however, and it is clear that the presence of the directive has forced the pace of the debate.
So what has been the impact of the PSI directive? The understanding of and expertise with PSI is low, and that is the real issue. People understand basics, but what is still lacking is a real understanding of the complexity of PSI in terms of how it relates to governance, how governments change, and how that affects PSI activities. There is no straightforward answer, either in the European context or the global context. Part of the problem is that there are few among the EU member states who actually see PSI as an economic factor, even though a chief focus of the Lisbon Treaty is to develop the knowledge economy. Unfortunately, policy makers often do not think outside of their own country, and they do not see why they should be thinking beyond it.
Finally, there remains a huge challenge in addressing the educational needs about PSI and disentangling what people say from what they believe. People can remember what the situation was like pre-2003, before the PSI directive was finalized, but that is not all that helpful. As the ePSIplus project holds more meetings and the attendance grows, each meeting needs to move forward on what the issues are today and to stop harping on what went on in the past. Nevertheless, the network process is slowly working, and that is a hopeful sign for more success in the future.