The state of Open Data in Belgium
Opening up data is not just a Western trend, it’s a global phenomenon. And when our neighbouring countries are ranking high up on the Open Data index, Belgium can’t stay behind. In 2015, Belgium ranked 35th of the 122 reviewed countries, with 43% of its data being opened up. That’s a long way from the 78% of the current number one Taiwan, but we are catching up fast. In 2014 we were 53rd of the 97 reviewed countries, so we’ve made quite a leap in just one year’s time. The main reason that we’re not ranked higher is that only federal initiatives and data count toward the ranking, and we’re a quite divided and complex country.
Pivot in the attitude of Belgian government
Although the federal government had not one but two portals as early as 2011, not much had happened regarding federal open data in Belgium until 2015. It was in December 2014 that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Digital Agenda Alexander De Croo had stated that Open Data was a vital item on the Belgian Digital agenda in order to create a new digital government. He signed the Open Data Charter and agreed that Belgium needed to catch up regarding open efforts on a federal level.
Fast forward to the 24th of July 2015 where the federal ministerial council has, by recommendation of Minister De Croo and Secretary of State Francken, approved an ambitious federal open data strategy. Through this strategy ‘open by default’ is the norm and will have an impact on all federal government agencies and institutions. Soon after, a federal Open Data taskforce was created, which relaunched a unified federal open data portal on the 12th of January 2015. Now, with the right people and infrastructure in place, we can now focus on opening up valuable data, starting with the 13 key datasets as defined in the Open Index.
Historically, in Belgium, Open Data emerged bottom up
Most Open Data and Open Knowledge initiatives in Belgium arised from a bottom up perspective, out of organisations and throughlocal and regional governments. Cities such as Ghent, Antwerp and Kortrijk for example have been organising hackathons and datadives for a long time in order to push the local envelope. Unfortunately, such initiatives do not count toward our index ranking, as they’re not national efforts.
Open Data in the Belgian regions
In Flanders, there are various Open Data projects. Several Flemish cities have been organising events and initiatives regarding Open Data. On Open Data Forum, all news and facts regarding Open Data in the Flemish Government can be found.
Wallonia is catching up to Flanders at the moment. They have a few first Open Data initiatives, coming from bottom up initiatives as well as within the government. Similar to the Flemish Open Data Forum, there is Digital Wallonia. That’s the Walloon platform for IT initiatives providing an Open Data portal for the Walloon region. And Hackathon e-Gov Wallonia is actively engaging the Walloon community to use Open Data.
Brussels is on the rise as well regarding Open Data, they have been opening up datasets on their Brussels city portal and the region now has its own regional portal and other sources such as their mobility website and quite some geodata of the region through their Urbis Solutions platform.