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Suggested Citation:"16. Summary of the Second Breakout Session." National Research Council. 2009. The Socioeconomic Effects of Public Sector Information on Digital Networks: Toward a Better Understanding of Different Access and Reuse Policies: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12687.
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Suggested Citation:"16. Summary of the Second Breakout Session." National Research Council. 2009. The Socioeconomic Effects of Public Sector Information on Digital Networks: Toward a Better Understanding of Different Access and Reuse Policies: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12687.
Page 74

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16. Summary of the Second Breakout Session Tilman Merz, Rapporteur This group had a very creative and spirited discussion, but it was not exactly structured according to the questions given in the outline. To begin with, there was some discussion about questionnaires and how they could be designed to make sure that they are comparable. In the past, the OECD has issued model questionnaires, which could also be an option for the future. A number of comments centered on the value chains of public sector information use and reuse. To understand where value is created and where the obstacles and costs lie, we need to have a clear understanding of the different value chains, and throughout the discussion, ideas for further studies came up. After the OECD policy principles are issued at the OECD Ministerial Conference in June 2008, there will be reviews of the principles and whether they are being applied. The OECD also will address the issue of whether its members are addressing the right questions about PSI and access to PSI. These topics formed the broad subject matter of the discussion. Some participants said that policy makers need hard facts for making informed decisions. They need to be able to compare data and methodologies across countries and possibly also focus research on top PSI sectors, but there is a difficulty in that the PSI sectors deemed most important may differ from country to country. It was suggested that comparisons be made between country-sector combinations, perhaps starting with those sectors that are most often cited, such as meteorological and geospatial information. In doing so, different political and institutional contexts will have to be taken into account. The idea was raised of using different regions within the same country to conduct studies because quite often this will provide institutional contexts that are more similar. Even this may not always work, however. In Eastern Europe, for example, there are frequently differences in how PSI policy works between the capital and the more rural areas. The OECD PSI principles that are forthcoming will seek to promote broad dissemination of PSI at the lowest cost possible. It will be important in the future to review not only the implementation of these principles but also the costs that public sector bodies may accrue from applying these principles and also any obstacles that arise when attempting to apply them. Another area of discussion was how to define PSI products. Definitions are needed in order to better structure studies and also to compare studies. There also needs to be a consensus on exactly what PSI products are. Some discussants noted it might be better to take a functional approach than to take an approach based on defining PSI products. This is an area, therefore, where further research may be justified. The breakout group discussed the online repository of PSI-related information at some length. Such a repository could contain surveys or questionnaires and their results (including those of the OECD), contacts for further research, best practices in PSI policy, licenses available for PSI in different countries, and even a listing of different types of PSI. The repository would need to be well organized and structured. The ePSIplus Network collects a great deal of information on PSI, and it is already connected to many other studies. Thus 73

74 SOCIOECONOMIC EFFECTRS OF PSI ON DIGITAL NETWORKS the repository could build on this model. Many of the participants thought that it could be valuable to share more information and approaches to measuring impacts of PSI policy. Another topic of discussion was data collection. One obstacle to data collection is that countries have different national accounting practices, which makes analysis of PSI market development very difficult. Some kind of international cooperation therefore might be needed in this area. While at a national level, PSI sectors and PSI products may be isolated, international industry and product classifications usually do not allow such separation and generally lump several different content or service industries together with PSI-based ones. The difficulties of obtaining data on the use and reuse of PSI (or PSI market development more generally) were discussed as well. The academics and sometimes even the private-sector bodies that conduct surveys on PSI use generally do not have the authority to demand the submission of data. For example, the OFT indicated that it is sometimes in a better position to elicit responses from government bodies. Therefore, it may be useful to involve government competition bodies in this process, because in certain cases they may have better access to data. The need for a theoretical model of expected benefits was highlighted as well. The e- government economic programs were mentioned as one potentially useful example. There may be some parallels between them and PSI use in terms of the theoretical model of expected benefits; PSI research may thus benefit from examining these models. Another area of discussion was how best to learn about the issues that users and reusers of PSI are facing. Participants raised a number of ideas, including suggestions for data collection methods, such as how to get in touch with users and reusers and how to group respondents. One suggested approach is to announce new PSI research that is relevant for reusers so that reusing businesses could be identified. Publicly funded libraries can be used for disseminating PSI to citizens and for research on the users and reusers of such information. Publicly funded libraries are often used as a cost-effective way for disseminating government data, especially in North America and Scandinavia. The mapping of the value chain of PSI came up a number of times. The suggestion was made that the value chain could be modeled in terms of activities or business processes, attaching costs to the value chain. The underlying idea is to make studies more comparable by linking them to value chains. Participants also suggested a number of ideas for further studies on PSI, including the transition costs of switching PSI policy regimes (e.g., the cost-benefit analysis of moving away from the U.K. trading fund model that was introduced in the 1980s), the substitution of PSI by private-sector-generated data, examining licensing costs in different areas of PSI, and the extent of network externalities of online PSI. Finally, participants thought it might be interesting to look at other subject areas in order to learn from comparable situations. For instance, one might examine value generation from free online access in terms of the parallels it has with the economic impacts of the liberalization of telecoms.

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While governments throughout the world have different approaches to how they make their public sector information (PSI) available and the terms under which the information may be reused, there appears to be a broad recognition of the importance of digital networks and PSI to the economy and to society. However, despite the huge investments in PSI and the even larger estimated effects, surprisingly little is known about the costs and benefits of different information policies on the information society and the knowledge economy.

By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the current assessment methods and their underlying criteria, it should be possible to improve and apply such tools to help rationalize the policies and to clarify the role of the internet in disseminating PSI. This in turn can help promote the efficiency and effectiveness of PSI investments and management, and to improve their downstream economic and social results.

The workshop that is summarized in this volume was intended to review the state of the art in assessment methods and to improve the understanding of what is known and what needs to be known about the effects of PSI activities.

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