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Meld. St. 22 (2020–2021)

Data as a resource— Meld. St. 22 (2020–2021) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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5 Public sector information as a resource for business and industry

5.1 Background

The public sector produces large amounts of information or data, and all tasks performed, and services developed in the public sector involve the use of data. Public sector information (data) is viewed as a common good and should be made available for reuse within the framework of legal system in general, and within the scope of the privacy protection regulation.

Over the past decade, Norway has devoted considerable efforts to making available and sharing public sector information. There are three main reasons why giving access to and reuse of public sector information is important to society:

  • Rationalisation and innovation: When data are shared and reused it leads to better collaboration, more rational service development and better public services.

  • Business development: The business sector can develop new services, products and business models based on access to and reuse of public sector information.

  • An open and democratic society: Access to information about decision-making and priorities in public administration provides citizens with insight into how decisions are followed up and the effects of political measures. This is important for maintaining societal values and a high level of trust in the Norwegian society.

By public sector information (PSI) is meant all types of information that is produced or collected by public agencies and that is, or can be, digitised and stored electronically. Open public data refers to public sector information that is made freely available for reuse for any purpose. Such data are usually made available in the form of datasets, which can be simple statistical lists or tables or larger extracts from public registers, databases or sector specific systems. Data can also be shared in real time using programming interfaces (APIs).

Public-sector data is an important source of innovation, research, and business development. The European Commission has conducted studies showing that the economic value of data from the public sector will increase from EUR 52 billion in 2018 to EUR 194 billion in 2020.1 This shows that public sector information has a high value if it is properly managed and shared, and used for value-adding products and services.

The Government has an ambition to increase value creation using public sector information in the business sector and in society, and will facilitate the sharing of more high-quality data by public agencies in an efficient and secure manner. It is therefore important to put in place incentives and a good regulatory environment. This includes having rules that are adapted to data sharing, sustainable funding models for preparing and making data available, access to skills, and a culture of data sharing. It is also important with a clear division of roles and responsibilities between the public and private sectors.

Technological development and increased digitalisation present new ways of collecting, storing, and sharing data and, going forward, it will be important to find solutions that are cost-effective and fit for purpose. It will be important to identify cross-sectoral issues and needs for data, and to assess areas where it may be appropriate to develop common solutions.

5.2 Sharing of public sector information in important areas

In Report no. 27 to the Storting (2015–2016) Digital Agenda for Norway, five areas were identified where the Government should strengthen efforts to make public sector information openly available: map and property data (geospatial data), transport and communication data, data from research and education, and data on culture and public spending. Specific sector strategies have been prepared for the first four of these areas. Data on public spending are currently made available mainly through the report to the Storting on government accounts2 and statsregnskapet.dfo.no.

Some areas and sectors, such as geospatial data (maps and property data) and mobility data (transport and communication data) are covered by sector-specific EU directives (INSPIRE and ITS). These directives set forth requirements and guidelines on data quality and availability. For several years now, many public agencies, such as the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, the Brønnøysund Register Centre, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and the Norwegian Mapping Agency, have been actively involved in the work on making open public data available.

The five sector areas that were given priority in Digital Agenda for Norway largely harmonise with the areas the European Commission has defined as priority areas for common European data spaces in its data strategy and as high-value datasets in the Open Data Directive. See chapter 3.3 for a discussion of the EU’s legislation and data policy.

It has been a while since the five Norwegian sector areas were selected as strategically important, and since then there have been positive developments regarding the sharing of public sector information for reuse. The public sector also shares more data in other important areas. Many of these areas harmonise with the EU’s priorities in its data strategy and in the Open Data Directive.

Presented below are some examples of sector areas where Norwegian public agencies have come a long way in making data openly available.

5.2.1 Geospatial data

Good access to and use of public geographical information are becoming increasingly important. The EU has defined geospatial data as high-value datasets and wants to facilitate easier sharing and connection of such data across sectors, ecosystems and countries. Geographical information is information such as objects, events and conditions where the position (on Earth) is an integral part of the information. The term is often abbreviated to GIS (Geographical Information Systems) data.

Norway has long experience in establishing cooperation models for collecting, managing and sharing these types of data. The Norwegian Mapping Agency, for example, coordinates Norge digitalt (Norway digital) and Geovekst. Norge digitalt was established in 2005 and is a collaboration between enterprises responsible for obtaining GIS data and/or who are large consumers of such information. These include municipalities, counties, national agencies and private companies such as telecom and energy providers. Geovekst [Geo-growth] was established in 1992 as a collaboration on the joint establishment, management, operation, maintenance and use of geographical information. Among other things, the Geovekst partners conduct joint mapping projects through co-financing. These two collaborative projects have provided Norway with an abundance of GIS data, services and solutions that comply with common standards and allow integration with different services.

Detailed map and property data are today maintained and updated by the municipalities in national common systems such as Felles kartdatabase (FKB), the common map database, and the Norwegian Cadastre. Geonorge.no, is the national website for map data and other location information in Norway, was created as part of Norway’s digital collaboration. Everyone can search for and gain access to map data, services, and interfaces.

Digital elevation model of Norway

Through the national detailed elevation model project (Nasjonal detaljert høydemodell), an area of 230,000 square metres will by surveyed using laser scanning to form a complete elevation model of Norway. The data will be continually made available for use through hoydedata.no, and the model is due for completion in 2022. The mapping project costs around NOK 420 million, and is co-funded by eight ministries. The economic value of the project is estimated at more than NOK 1.6 billion.

Figure 5.1 Detailed elevation data in realistic 3D models

Figure 5.1 Detailed elevation data in realistic 3D models

Photo: Clip and Ship – Geodata AS

Coastal and harbour data

Mapping of harbour data and marine base maps in the coastal area contribute to better knowledge about the coastal marine areas and harbour infrastructure. Detailed data on terrains and infrastructure on land and at sea are fundamental for ensuring safe and efficient traffic and for upscaling intelligent transport systems. Calculations of the economic benefits commissioned by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation show that high-resolution bathymetric data (depth data) along the coastline will generate an annual net gain of NOK 515 million for shipping alone.

Textbox 5.1 NADAG

NADAG, the National Database for Ground Investigations, was developed by the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU) in partnership with the Norwegian Public Roads Administrations, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate and Bane Nor. Both public and private entities share their data through this solution. The purpose of the database is to make data from all geotechnical ground investigations available in a single solution. The solution is openly available under the Norwegian Licence for Open Government Data (NLOD). The database and APIs for use with GIS tools are also made available via geonorge.no as part of the geospatial infrastructure. NADAG is a useful tool in land-use planning, development and exploration. Fast access to data and information on the subsurface is also important for good preparedness in the event of accidents and natural disasters. Collecting data on ground investigations in Norway marks a big step towards building an understanding of the ground conditions in three dimensions.

Source Norwegian Geotechnical Institute

Textbox 5.2 BarentsWatch

BarentsWatch is a programme led by the Norwegian Coastal Administration. A further 29 administrative agencies and research institutions contribute by sharing their own datasets and developing services. The information is based on public sector information, and the services are developed with user needs in mind.

BarentsWatch comprises one open and one closed solution. The open solution is an information system providing services for end users, presented via barentswatch.no. It covers services such as FishInfo, providing fishermen with relevant information on fishery activities; Norwegian fish health, providing a real-time overview of the incidence of lice and diseases in the aquaculture industry; Wave forecast, providing overviews of wave heights along the entire Norwegian coastline; and Marine Spatial Management Tool, supporting development of more cohesive administrative plans for the marine areas. The Marine Spatial Management Tool contains maps showing natural resources, commercial activities, environmental status, plans and regulatory measures and more, and makes this knowledge publicly available. Open data via BarentsWatch are generally licensed under the Norwegian Licence for Open Government Data (NLOD).

The closed part of BarentsWatch facilitates the sharing of information and a common situation report for Norwegian public agencies with operational tasks in marine areas. The services in the closed solution are used for purposes such as monitoring marine areas. The tasks can involve ongoing maritime transport, commercial activities, detection of criminal activity, rescue operations and environmental monitoring. These services have provided time savings and enhanced accuracy in performing and managing operations.

Further development of spatial data infrastructure

Vast amounts of information are connected to a location. Access to an updated and easily accessible spatial data infrastructure is therefore important. The state and local authorities have been the principal parties in the collaboration on common solutions for sharing spatial data, but the infrastructure is now facing new opportunities and requirements. The private sector will increasingly create and receive geographical information and contribute to further innovation.

Accurate terrain models from land to sea and detailed map data and property data are creating new possibilities for business development and better public planning. Increased use of GIS data will therefore have a positive effect on the data economy in Norway. More datasets and better facilitation can make it easier for businesses without GIS competence to develop innovative user solutions using such data. More GIS data and more involvement from businesses in the digital geospatial ecosystem will demand more resources and challenge the current management and funding models.

As part of the work on following up the National geospatial strategy towards 2025: Everything happens somewhere, the Norwegian Mapping Agency is considering implementing a national programme to further develop the geospatial infrastructure. The goal is that the next generation sharing platform for geospatial data will be technically designed for easier sharing and interoperation with other ecosystems. Another goal is to put in place a form of governance model and funding that strengthens the Norwegian business sector’s capacity for value creation and international competitiveness based on GIS data.

5.2.2 Transport and traffic data

The digitalisation of the transport sector makes it possible to achieve transport policy goals in more efficient and innovative ways. Developments in artificial intelligence are driven by access to increasingly large amounts of data, better algorithms, and access to steadily increasing computing power at a lower cost than previously. The increasing amount of data, combined with artificial intelligence, is particularly important for developing automated or autonomous solutions, interoperable intelligent transport systems and new mobility solutions based on sharing.

Since access to large datasets can give better overviews of the status of and predictions for the transport system, there is great potential in analysis, insight and prediction using artificial intelligence. This can result in better planning, more advanced forms of traffic management and influencing traffic behaviour, better passenger information, more targeted operating and maintenance efforts, better research, and a whole range of other areas of application for analysis and insight based on datasets from different sectors.

Increasing the availability of data from the transport sector can contribute to making public services in the sector more efficient, while innovation based on such data can generate significant business development and value creation. Transport and traffic data are currently followed up through the government’s strategy for making data available in the transport sector.3

The volume of real-time data in the transport sector is large. For example, the repository of data for the Norwegian Public Roads Administration consists of increasingly more real-time data about traffic, travel times, freight transport and road quality. These data are based on measurements obtained from sensors, among other things, but also on data registered manually. Most transport data are site-specific, meaning that they can be enriched with GIS data. Access to good map data is therefore extremely important for analysing and using transport data. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration obtains data from its own systems as well as from other sources.

In 2019 the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, together with the Norwegian Railway Directorate and Entur AS, launched transportportal.no, which contains descriptions of and links to a range of different datasets from the transport sector. The portal offers an assortment of transport-related data from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration on roads, road status, incidents, and travel times, as well as data from Entur on public transport routes and schedules, and various mobility services such as city bikes. The datasets are available in standard and specified data formats, in compliance with the ITS Directive. Datasets that are described in the portal are also included in data.norge.no.

Entur AS is one of several state-owned companies that share their transport data. Entur has entered into a partnership with StartupLab, which is an incubator for early-stage tech start-ups. This collaboration will help boost innovation in mobility and public transport with an emphasis on Norwegian business and industry and start-ups.

5.2.3 Research and education data

The Government aims to make research more available by encouraging more open research dissemination and more open data. In principle, it ought to be expected that data generated through publicly funded research is shared on a par with other public sector information, in line with national and international guidelines. The results from such research are a common good that has value to science and to society. Better access to research data will enhance the quality of and trust in research by enabling results to be validated and verified in better ways, and data sharing represents a social value in that other researchers and society at large can use the data in new ways and in combination with other datasets.

The research system has traditionally shared knowledge by publishing scientific articles, while the data on which the articles are based are less openly available. The research sector faces many of the same challenges as other sectors regarding the sharing of data. However, the sharing of research data presents additional challenges on account of the properties of the data, the complicated legislation regulating data rights, and the lack of incentives to share data in the research system. National strategy on access to and sharing of research data establishes that research data should be as open as possible and as closed as necessary.

Such access must be safeguarded by sound privacy practices and give due consideration to security, intellectual property rights and trade secrets. To achieve the main objective of more sharing and reuse of data, the appropriate use of licences is extremely important. Therefore, on commission from the Ministry of Education and Research, the Research Council of Norway has appointed a committee to examine rights and licensing issues associated with research data, the objective being that the results from publicly funded research should contribute to value creation and the public good. The result of the committee’s work was published in October 2021.4

On commission from the Ministry of Education and Research, the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (Unit) is conducting a pilot project on the sharing of data on education, research and integration. Examples of research data are data from primary and upper secondary education. The aim is to establish an infrastructure for making data available that facilitates efficient information management and creates an infrastructure for data reuse in the knowledge sector. The pilot project is based on a concept study on data sharing in the knowledge sector.5

5.2.4 Data on culture, cultural heritage and language

The National Archives, the Directorate for Cultural Heritage and Arts Council Norway collaborate on following up the Ministry of Culture’s strategy for open data.6 The agencies have reviewed datasets, standards and common authority records and have made recommendations on making culture data available. This cooperation ensures that national guidelines, standards and solutions are adopted.

Large amounts of digitised images of objects, photographs, books, language resources and documents are currently provided in services such as the Digital Archives, nb.no and DigitaltMuseum.no, and some of this content is made available for reuse.

The Norwegian Language Bank

Current language technology works better in English than in Norwegian, and better in Norwegian Bokmål than in Norwegian Nynorsk and Sami. An important reason for this is that for the purposes of language technology, far more source material – data – is available in the more widely spoken languages. Commercial developers are reluctant to develop or adapt products to the Norwegian language if no relevant language resources are available on which to build such products.

The Norwegian Language Bank (Språkbanken) was established at the National Library of Norway in 2010 to address this challenge. The Norwegian Language Bank is the single most important measure in language technology and language policy to be implemented in the past decade.7 The Language Bank is a collection of digital language resources (text, terminology and speech) such as multilingual terminology lists, area-specific texts and recorded speech or parallel texts in Norwegian Bokmål and Nynorsk and different Sami languages. There is a need for both written and oral data covering different dialects and pronunciation variants. The Language Bank is important for developing artificial intelligence and digital services. Developer communities can freely retrieve language resources and use them to engage in innovation, development and value creation.

Textbox 5.3 Sharing resources through the Language Bank

Tuva is an aid for dictating text (speech recognition) and navigating a computer using voice control. The product was developed by the company Max Manus in 2017 and is provided to people with permanent disabilities. The solution uses AI and builds on resources from The Norwegian Language Bank. The dataset developed specially for this system is now openly accessible to other developers in the Language Bank.

eTranslation is a machine translation service developed by the EU that can be used by public sector employees in the EEA area. The functionality for Norwegian is based on translations by the Unit for EEA Translation Services in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, translation assignments performed by Semantix for public agencies and on standards translated by Standard Norway. The Language Bank makes the datasets freely available to developers and researchers.

Source Ministry of Culture.

The public sector has far more data that could be used for developing language technology than is in use today. There is a wish that more such resources be deposited with the National Library of Norway. The Government will therefore contribute to raising awareness of language data and language resources in the public sector by, among other things, addressing such data specifically in the Government’s circular on digitalisation.

The initiative to deposit Norwegian and Sami language data at The Language Bank will be important for developing the Norwegian data economy. Without access to sufficient language data, it will be difficult and extremely expensive to develop digital services such as chatbots and artificial intelligence in Norwegian and Sami.

5.2.5 Meteorological data

Some meteorological data are shared through collaboration in the World Meteorological Organization, but in many countries most meteorological data are not openly available. All meteorological data in Norway have been open and freely available since 2007, and the Meteorological Institute (MET) has developed user-oriented downloading services and access solutions for its data and products. The institute also grants access to international meteorological data and products where licences permit.

The institute has downloading services and APIs for alert products (danger warnings and weather forecasts), observations and climate statistics. Weather forecasts require that users have fast, stable and easy access to updated data as a basis for good decision making. A dedicated API is available for bulk downloads of large datasets, such as computational models of the atmosphere and ocean. Data from these services can be used by the private sector, public agencies and researchers.

The institute has data access solutions for many of its data and products. The most widely used products are Yr (see Box 5.4) and Seklima (seklima.met.no). Seklima provides observations and climate statistics. The Meteorological Institute also makes data available on observations of the Earth’s surface from the Sentinel satellites, which are part of the EU’s Copernicus programme. This is done in cooperation with the Norwegian Space Agency.

One challenge with thematic datasets is that they are often based on thematic standards for metadata and can therefore prove difficult to use for enterprises and researchers looking to combine data from different sources. The Meteorological Institute is working on ways to make it easier to use environmental and climate data by documenting metadata and developing solutions for connecting data. Part of this work involves making sure that the data meet the FAIR principles in addition to being open. This means that the data must be findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

Textbox 5.4 Yr weather forecasting service

Yr is a collaboration between The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and the Meteorological Institute (MET). The purpose of Yr is to give users reliable weather forecasts that prepare them for all types of weather conditions. This can also contribute to safeguarding lives and assets. With several million unique users every week, Yr is one of the most popular weather forecasting services in the world.

Yr is based on the Meteorological Institute’s open downloading services and on a large number of other contributors of open data, including the Norwegian Mapping Agency, NIBIO, Entur, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, Bane Nor and the Norwegian Polar Institute. Data from private weather stations like Netatmo and Holfuy are also used as a basis for weather forecasts on Yr.

Many countries have no systems for providing businesses and citizens with high-quality and detailed weather forecasts. This particularly applies in many developing countries where the public benefit of good weather forecasts would be immense, both for safeguarding the life and health of citizens and for increasing value creation in the primary industries. With support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) the Meteorological Institute is working on introducing digital solutions that are based on the same idea as for Yr to some aid recipient countries in Africa. This work is being carried out in cooperation with the local meteorological institutes.

5.2.6 Environmental data and Earth observation data

Environmental data

Environmental data refers to data which the environmental authorities produce themselves or obtain from other data producers through mapping, monitoring, research and various reports. Priority environmental data that are defined as high-value datasets for reuse, include data on air quality, biodiversity (habitats/biotopes and species), emissions, nature areas subject to various forms of conservation or protection, noise, waste (including marine litter) and water. Environmental data are included in the EU’s data policy under the European Green Deal and the Destination Earth initiative, which aims to develop digital twins of the Earth based on thematic categorisations such as climate change adaptation, extreme natural disasters and biodiversity.

Textbox 5.5 The Air Quality in Norway

The digital service Air Quality in Norway was launched in 2019. The service provides local air quality forecasts for Norway at three different temporal scales: right now, the rest of the day, and tomorrow. The service provides high-quality data and uses data from a range of different sources including the Copernicus programme and the atmospheric service CAMS, the municipalities, the National Reference Laboratory for Air Quality (NRL) and the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU).

The collaboration consists of The Norwegian Environment Agency, The Norwegian Public Roads Administration, The Norwegian Meteorological Institute, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and The Norwegian Directorate of Health. These agencies have an overlapping responsibility to ensure the protection of health and the environment through the reduction of emissions and exposure to local air pollution.

The Norwegian Environment Agency manages and communicates large amounts of environmental data that are shared via open APIs and dedicated services. The current sharing platforms for environmental data, Miljøstatus, Mareano and Artskart, mainly offer aggregated information, and the datasets are partly accessible via open APIs and with licences that permit reuse. Systematic work has been initiated to report on ‘future environmental data’, which will propose solutions for ensuring fast, efficient and reliable access to high-quality data for all parts of the value chain, from data to knowledge.

The Norwegian Environment Agency reports and coordinates environmental data both nationally and internationally. The directorate contributes to standardisation and harmonisation of national databases and registers in the environmental area, and collaborates with different bodies that collect and share data and environment-related knowledge, such as Norge digitalt, the European Environment Agency (EEA) and BarentsWatch.

Earth observation data

Earth observation data embrace hydrographic data, land cover/land use, elevation, geology, aerial images/orthophotos, oceanography and marine areas. The Copernicus programme is an important source of Earth observation data in Europe. Through a free and open data policy, the programme provides a large amount of high-resolution and highly detailed Earth observations. Copernicus produces 30 terabytes (TB) of satellite data every day. It also produces large amounts of data products in its operative services for atmosphere, marine, land, climate, emergency management and security. Norway has joined the Copernicus programme and has full access to its data and services.

Through InSAR Norway, Norway has developed the world’s most advanced nationwide mapping service for monitoring subsidence. The service provides the construction industry, insurance companies and municipalities with unique access free of charge to data showing how the ground in Norway is sinking or lifting to an accuracy of four billion measurement points, and the location of unstable mountain slopes.

The Norwegian Space Agency is responsible for making Earth observation data available and for encouraging their use in Norway. Several open portals for Earth observation data have been established: data from Copernicus are made openly available at satellittdata.no, lidar data at høydedata.no and aerial images at norgeibilder.no, and data showing ground motion in Norway (subsidence data) are available at insar.ngu.no.

Figure 5.2 Plankton approaching Scandinavia

Figure 5.2 Plankton approaching Scandinavia

Photo: European Space Agency (ESA)

Figure 5.3 The value chain for environmental data: from data to knowledge

Figure 5.3 The value chain for environmental data: from data to knowledge

Source Ministry of Climate and Environment

5.2.7 Health data

Norway has some of the world’s most comprehensive and historically complete health registers, including national health registers, medical quality registers, screening programmes and population-based health surveys. The Government will facilitate better use of Norway’s health data to develop better, more targeted health services within the parameters of sound data protection and cyber security practices.

Making health data more widely available represents an essential policy instrument for achieving health and care policy goals and for providing knowledge that contributes to better health for everyone. The overriding objective is that health data should provide knowledge that contributes to improving the quality of the health services and to developing better treatment, prevention, monitoring and research.

National Health Analysis Platform

At present, gaining access to health data for analytical purposes can demand considerable time and resources. Establishing a national health analysis platform will help improve health research, strengthen knowledge-based health and care services, and stimulate innovation and business development. The platform will simplify access to health data and facilitate advanced analyses across different data sources such as health registers, patient records, basic data, and other information sources. See Figure 5.4.

The National Health Analysis Platform will make it possible to use health data more actively for developing drugs, medical technology and services. The development of such a platform will create new opportunities for Norway’s health industry and attract international enterprises Norway. The aim is that the National Health Analysis Platform will be developed into an ecosystem for health analysis by connecting suppliers of data and health analytics services to users of health data.

Privacy is reinforced by letting the analyses be conducted on the platform, rather than locally. The needs to disclose personal data will be reduced through development of better solutions for access and consent, and by tracking the use of the information.

Figure 5.4 The National Health Analysis Platform: a national ecosystem for health analysis

Figure 5.4 The National Health Analysis Platform: a national ecosystem for health analysis

Source Norwegian Directorate of eHealth

5.2.8 Company data and ownership data

Companies and company ownership make up one of the six thematic categories identified by the European Commission as important in the Open Data Directive. In Norway, such data have already been available for some time. However, new initiatives are under way to make these data even more accessible and reusable.

Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities

Norway was an early adopter in making data from private enterprises openly available for reuse. When the Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities (Enhetsregisteret) was made available as open data in 2012, it made international news. The Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities shall contribute to promote efficient use and coordination of public sector information on entities that are subject to registration obligations in an affiliated register. The data are provided in real time so that the service can be used by entities to clean or update their own data with the latest information, such as addresses. The Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities is managed by the Brønnøysund Register Centre.

Register of Company Accounts

The Brønnøysund Register Centre also manages the Register of Company Accounts. The Register of Company Accounts currently provides accounting data to the credit information industry for a fee.

Altinn

Altinn is a channel for conducting digital dialogue between businesses, private individuals and public sector agencies. Altinn is also a technical platform that the agencies can use to develop digital services. Altinn is further developed, operated, and managed by several public sector agencies in cooperation. The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency manages the technical solution on behalf of this cooperation.

The Altinn platform offers all public agencies a modern national solution for development, testing and deployment of digital services. The platform also contains services for consent and authorisation for use in connection with secure sharing of data. Today the platform is used to deliver more than one thousand digital services from approximately 60 public sector agencies in different sectors.

Shareholder Register

The Storting has asked the Government to establish a public solution containing information that will ensure greater transparency around ownership of private limited liability companies. Transparency around share ownership can generate trust, contribute to uncovering illegal activities and thereby help enhance the competitiveness of law-abiding companies.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Finance have asked the Norwegian Tax Administration and the Brønnøysund Register Centre to establish a pilot project to find an integrated and simplified solution for reporting and making available information on Norwegian private companies. The pilot project will be based on the needs of society, place emphasis on simplification for the business sector and increase public openness. The aim is to give both the general public and the public sector easier and better access to information on owners of private companies. At the same time, the business sector’s total reporting burden associated with updating such information will be reduced.

Textbox 5.6 The Nordic Smart Government project

Nordic Smart Government (NSG) is a collaborative project that has been running for several years between Nordic organisations that work on registry data. NSG’s vision is to make it simpler for small and medium-sized enterprises to conduct business across the Nordics and to collaborate across national borders. The project collects company data and makes them available so that they contribute to the efficient use of resources and can be used to support growth and innovation.

In Norway, the Brønnøysund Register cooperates with the Norwegian Tax Administration and Statistics Norway. The goal is to make reporting to public authorities far simpler for companies than it is today. Access to better data will give increased efficiency and better oversight.

5.2.9 Civil protection data

In 2020 the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning (DSB) launched Kunnskapsbanken (Knowledge Bank), a technical solution that makes information and datasets on risk and vulnerability easily available. Knowledge of risk and vulnerability is important for reducing the likelihood of adverse incidents occurring and for mitigating the impacts if they do.8

As well as serving as an aid for finding datasets and information on risk and vulnerability analyses, Kunnskapsbanken is a resource for researchers, journalists and other private actors such as insurance and financing companies and property developers.

Kunnskapsbanken largely contains data on risk of and vulnerability to natural hazards. It also contains some data on other areas within civil protection, such as critical societal functions. The data are retrieved from DSB’s own professional systems and from other public and private entities. The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), the Meteorological Institute (MET), the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and Finance Norway are some of the bodies which deliver data to Kunnskapsbanken.

The data managers themselves are responsible for assuring the quality of the data made available in Kunnskapsbanken. DSB maintains dialogue with the data owners to ensure a good understanding of the content of the data and that all the data are securely processed. Kunnskapsbanken is continually updated with new data sources.

NVE has, in collaboration with the MET and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, developed the digital warning service varsom.no. NVE and MET are working on coordinating several types of hazard warnings in terms of form, content and scope. The aim is to coordinate communication with users so that the warnings are easy to understand, reach as many as possible, and trigger measures that prevent harm to health and material assets. Meteorological and hydrological stations that deliver real-time data on weather, snow and water and observer corps for avalanche warnings are important parts of the warning service. It is also important to have model computations that produce forecasts and information on weather, snow and water conditions. In addition, many individuals and external organisations contribute to the service by sharing their field observations on water, soil, snow or ice in the online registration service varsom.no/regobs, which is also available as an app. Making these types of data available is important for civil protection, and the service is used by those engaged in local preparedness or in outdoor recreational activities.

A large proportion of the country’s digital infrastructure – such as broadband and telecom networks – is owned and operated by private companies. This means that important decisions on development and security are made by the industry.

The authorities play an important role as legislator, facilitator and supervisory authority, and can investigate and prosecute data and ICT-related crimes. It is also the authorities’ role to collect domestic and foreign intelligence, cooperate with international bodies and share information on potential threats.

The existing early warning system for digital infrastructure has been used to detect targeted cyberattacks for almost 20 years. The Norwegian National Security Authority is now developing new sensor technology that will build on and eventually replace the sensors used today. A new platform will be developed to use artificial intelligence and machine learning on the data collected. The platform will enable automated analysis of any malware detected as well as automated sharing of results.

5.2.10 Data from Statistics Norway

Statistics Norway (SSB) manages a large amount of source data for Norwegian society, and provides a range of services, one of which is the API open data service. The service allows the data in the statistics bank StatBank Norway to be freely used under an attribution licence. The APIs are open and require no registration.

Detailed data obtained for use in official statistics are protected by a duty of confidentiality in the Statistics Act and are therefore not openly available. It is possible for researchers and others to request access to such data once they are prepared for statistics. The new Statistics Act allows more opportunities to request access to detailed data from SSB, but the aggregate level at which the data can be made accessible will depend on who requests data and for what purpose.

SSB has also developed a platform (microdata.no) in collaboration with the Norwegian Social Science Data Services. The solution has an anonymisation interface with embedded privacy protection and allows users to conduct analyses on register data containing personal information without being able to identify individuals. Access to microdata.no is given to researchers, PhD students and master’s degree students at an approved research institution as well as employees of ministries and directorates.

5.3 The private sectors’ need for open data

There can be many reasons why public sector information is not shared with the private sector or reused by private actors. Companies may be unaware that the data exist and are openly available for reuse. Another reason may be that the quality of the data or the way the data are made available does not fit the intended purpose. It may also be that the quality of the data makes processing too expensive.9

Reliability in the delivery of data from the public sector are important for private companies with data-driven business models build around public sector information (data). Factors such as the frequency of updates, quality and division of responsibility can be agreed in more detail in separate contracts, such a service-level agreement (SLA).

5.3.1 Entrepreneurship and data-driven innovation based on public sector information

Start-ups and entrepreneurs building their business ideas and models around public sector information (data) face several challenges. A challenge raised by many of these entrepreneurs is that they cannot know whether their business idea can be realised before it is tested using full quality datasets. If entrepreneurs spend a lot of time or money on gaining access to data which subsequently prove to be of little value, they will have wasted precious time and resources. Many entrepreneurs find it easier to generate data themselves rather than gain access to datasets from the public sector for prototyping.

Figure 5.5 The entrepreneur’s journey, pre-start-up

Figure 5.5 The entrepreneur’s journey, pre-start-up

Source MIT REAP Oslo and Viken

Entrepreneurs want to spend their time on prototyping and adding value to their business models, ideas and concepts rather than on gaining access to and structuring data. It is particularly challenging for businesses to succeed with value-adding services based on public sector data from municipalities. Little standardisation and varying municipal practices for making data available make it difficult to scale from idea to market because using data from only one or a few municipalities is not enough. This does not apply to municipal geospatial data, which is regulated by the Spatial Data Act with the Norwegian Mapping Agency as the central coordinator. National statistics on the municipalities are also available in KOSTRA (Municipality-State Reporting), Statistics Norway and the Norwegian Social Science Data Services.

Figure 5.6 The entrepreneur’s journey: during and after establishment

Figure 5.6 The entrepreneur’s journey: during and after establishment

Source MIT REAP Oslo and Viken

Oslo Metropolitan University / MIT REAP have carried out a project in which they mapped the user journeys of five start-ups in the two counties Oslo and Viken.10 The mapping was conducted to gain more insight into the needs and challenges associated with accessing and using public sector information.

The main findings from this insight show that:

  • there is a need for a general overview of what public sector information exist

  • there is a need for guidance and help in the process of gaining access to public sector information

  • there is a need for access to networks and competence that make the process of accessing and using data simpler and faster

  • there is a need for access to datasets to do proofs of concept

  • entrepreneurs are more vulnerable to waiting time, deficient datasets and lack of predictability

  • entrepreneurs sometimes drop trying to gain access to data for reasons of cost, the complexity of the process or problems with data quality and structure

  • differences in culture, communication and work methods between different sectors affect and delay processes associated with gaining access to data

  • it is demanding to engage in lean, design-driven innovation because entrepreneurs lack the capital with which to generate and collect data multiple times

5.3.2 Knowledge about public sector information in the private sector

The Government’s guidelines on making public sector information accessible recommend that public agencies spread knowledge about their own data, encourage their use, and facilitate dialogue with the private sector; see Box 5.7.11 Public agencies can be more proactive in promoting the use of and demand for the data they can provide. In its report entitled Digital Government Review of Norway, the OECD remarked that public agencies must challenge the private sector and invite dialogue on what data should be made available and how.12

Textbox 5.7 Guidelines on making public sector information available

The guidelines on making public sector information available state what the data owner must think about after it decides that a dataset can be made openly available. The guidelines make 15 recommendations on how public sector information should be shared in order to make it possible for users to realise their value.

  1. Use open licences

  2. Provide data free of charge

  3. Provide data without requiring user registration

  4. Provide documentation of the datasets

  5. Provide information on the data quality

  6. Provide updated data

  7. Make data visible

  8. Use machine-readable and standard formats

  9. Provide data via an application programming interface (API)

  10. Provide full downloading capability

  11. Use permanent addresses and unique identifiers

  12. Publish an overview of the agency’s data

  13. Adapt the data to users’ needs

  14. Encourage use

  15. Facilitate feedback

Parts of the public sector, and particularly the municipalities, experience little demand for their data. This has been one of the reasons why some public agencies have not given priority making data accessible for reuse in the private sector.

Some providers of public sector information have events where private companies, start-ups and entrepreneurs are invited to discuss how public sector information can be shared and used for business development and innovation. For instance, has the Norwegian Mapping Agency for some years now, in collaboration with the University of South-Eastern Norway, encouraged the use of geospatial data by arranging the hack4no hackathon event, where data providers from the public sector, IT students and start-ups meet to explore new ideas based on open public sector information.

Textbox 5.8 Examples of reuse of public sector information in the private sector

There are several good examples of how open public data can contribute to data-driven innovation and business development in the private sector:

Otovo is a Norwegian energy company supplying solar panels for residential households. The process of carrying out inspections to assess energy production for potential customers can partly be automated by combining existing map and property data on buildings (FKB Bygning) with open data on sunlight conditions from the European PVGIS database. In 2018 Otovo estimated that the company had saved around NOK 300 million by taking advantage of existing datasets like these.1

Framsikt AS supplies control systems to Norwegian municipalities and makes analytical tools which largely are based on open data from KOSTRA and other data from Statistics Norway for the municipal sector. Many consultancy firms are now making good use of Statistics Norway data. Statistics Norway offers over 5,000 tables as open data via its API for StatBank Norway.

Spacemaker has developed a product for property developers to present proposals for plot developments using artificial intelligence. They use the Land Register for information on plots, detailed map data from the municipalities, and meteorological data on wind conditions and solar paths, etc. The tool makes it easy for developers to change different parameters in the project, such as building density, building stock and floor levels, and to examine sunlight conditions and plan parking spaces. Spacemaker was named entrepreneur of the year by Norwegian business newspaper Dagens Næringsliv in 2019.2

StormGeo develops advanced data analytics and consultancy services based on public meteorological data from Norway and other countries. The services are particularly directed at the power, energy and shipping markets. The company was formed as a spin-off from the television channel TV2 in 1997 and now has 550 employees in 115 countries.

1 Jørgenrud, Marius B. (2018): Norsk tech-oppstart har spart 300 millioner kroner på åpne data [Norwegian tech startup has saved NOK 300 million with open data]. Digi.no, 12 March 2018

2 Bakken, Jonas B. (2019): Gründerbedriften har snart 100 ansatte – pekes ut som det heteste stedet å jobbe [Startup soon has 100 employees – singled out as the hottest place to work]. Dn.no, 27 April 2019

In September 2020 StartupLab arranged the Smart Mobility Hackathon in cooperation with the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. The participants were given specific challenges related to travel planning services, climate challenges and the coronavirus pandemic. They were given access to data mentors and representatives from the data providers with key expertise. The purpose was to explore how data – especially traffic data – and new technology can play a role in resolving specific industrial challenges for mobility. The actual hackathon challenge lasted 24 hours, during which time the participants were given access to a large amount of data to compete on resolving the challenges. The data providers received useful input from the participants on datasets they lacked and tips on how data should be documented in order to be easy to use.

Collaboration between municipalities and local businesses on developing smart city solutions could stimulate demand for and interest in public sector information, particularly municipal data. The private sector is involved in societal development in the municipalities, something that can motivate engagement and participation. For example, Drammen municipality arranged an ideathon, where the municipality received input on businesses’ data needs. Hackathons were recently arranged in Stavanger municipality, directed at business developers and start-ups, among others.

Textbox 5.9 Licences for open data

A standard open data licence is a general agreement between the data provider and the data user. The agreement contains very few restrictions and ensures the same terms for all users. The licence allows data to be combined from multiple sources and provides scope to process data and provide services and new products in the market. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) and Norwegian Licence for Open Government Data (NLOD) are examples of open data licences.

The standard licences ensure cohesive practice in the rights users have, and hold the licensor free from legal liability regarding data quality and what the data are used for.

5.4 National measures for making public sector information available for reuse in the private sector

Several national measures and policy instruments have been established in recent years to promote the sharing and reuse of public sector information, and many of them are now managed by the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency. The Government will give priority to work on developing and improving national common solutions that will support efficient and secure infrastructure for sharing and using public sector information. This work will be needs-driven and based on national and international best practice. A description of the most important measures and future needs is presented in the following sections.

5.4.1 The national data catalogue

Value creation using public sector information requires public agencies to make their own data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. A national data catalogue is created to provide access to available data and to provide an overview of the data resources held by the Norwegian public sector. The catalogue is a single entry point to open government data from the Norwegian public. The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency manages the solution. The Government’s circular on digitalisation sets requirements for ministries and government agencies to publish datasets on data.norge.no.

Data.norge.no harvests the dataset descriptions automatically from local data directories in agencies such as the Norwegian Tax Administration, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. Agencies without their own local data catalogue can register their datasets manually on the website. Dataset descriptions are also exchanged with domain portals such as geonorge.no and transportportalen.no. No such solutions have yet been developed for exchanging data with other sectors, such as health or research.

In Statistics Norway’s annual survey for 2020, ICT usage in public sector, 70 per cent of public agencies and 48 per cent of municipalities responded ‘yes’ or ‘partly’ when asked whether they shared data in line with the Government’s guidelines. An overview prepared by the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency shows that since 2017 there has been a positive trend in the number of datasets published. It is primarily the agencies that already provide data that account for this growth. Figures from the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency show that as of February 2021, 62 government agencies, 25 municipalities, two county municipalities and 24 state-owned enterprises have published one or more dataset descriptions on data.norge.no. These represent a small portion of the total number of public agencies.

The public sector has considerable potential for improvement with respect to making dataset descriptions accessible and findable on data.norge.no and generally. It is estimated that there is a wide gap between the number of datasets that have been published and made findable in the national data catalogue and the number of datasets which is held by the Norwegian public sector. According to figures from the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency, probably only 10 per cent of public sector information has been documented and described on data.norge.no. Since many agencies make their data accessible via their own websites and data portals without registering them on data.norge.no, the total number of datasets published is likely somewhat higher.

A need for a better overview of public sector information from the municipalities

A report prepared by Agenda Kaupang and commissioned by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation shows that even the municipalities that have come furthest in data management and data sharing have fallen short.13 There are several reasons for this. The municipalities largely use off-the-shelf IT systems supplied by small and large system providers. These standard systems are poorly suited to sharing and making better use of data, and the municipalities’ own data often become ‘locked’ inside the professional systems. It can be difficult for the municipalities to gain access to the data for their own use and for sharing. The municipalities also have less incentive to share data and fewer clear guidelines on doing so than government agencies. Other factors may be lack of competence in the municipalities and low demand for data from the private sector.

It is particularly challenging for businesses to succeed with value-adding services based on municipal data. Little standardisation and varying municipal practices for making data available make it difficult to scale from idea to market because using data from only one or a few municipalities is not enough. This does not apply to municipal geospatial data, which is regulated by the Spatial Data Act with the Norwegian Mapping Agency as the central coordinator. National statistics on the municipalities are also available in KOSTRA (Municipality-State Reporting), Statistics Norway and the Norwegian Social Science Data Services.

Further development of the national data catalogue

The Government will further develop the national data catalogue data.norge.no. The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency will consider further relevant services and new functionality with a view to making it easier for private enterprises to find and use datasets from public agencies. It will also be made easier for the private sector and other data users to engage in dialogue with data providers, for example to give feedback and ask questions on data quality and data formats. Better opportunities for dialogue and feedback between data providers and data users will also contribute to improving data quality and lowering the threshold for using public sector information in new contexts.

Data that hold high quality are characterised by being machine-readable, updated, accurate, consistent, and complete. Data providers can share information on data quality as part of the dataset descriptions on data.norge.no. In addition, an automated assessment is made of the quality of the dataset descriptions (metadata) in five categories:

  1. Findable: The description contains good keywords, thematic categories, geographic demarcation and definition of key terms in the dataset.

  2. Reusable: Contact details and information on the licence are provided.

  3. Readable: The dataset has a descriptive title and description.

  4. Interoperable: The description contains unambiguous information on the formats in which the dataset is available.

  5. Accessible: A link is provided to the dataset or to information on how to access the dataset.

The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency now works on improving the automated assessment in connection with a large-scale upgrade of the functionality and services provided on data.norge.no.

5.4.2 National Resource Centre for Data Sharing

A national resource centre for data sharing has been established within the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency. The purpose of the resource centre is to contribute to more digitalisation-friendly regulations and offer advice and guidance on data sharing in the public sector, including on re-use of public sector information in the private sector. There is a need for better legal competence when it comes to data sharing, and more knowledge about the relationships between law and technology and between business models and governance. There is also a need for more knowledge of how infrastructure in both central and local government can be adapted to facilitate data sharing.

The resource centre will assist data providers and data owners in this area and facilitate the sharing of experiences and best practice across the public and private sectors. Furthermore, the resource centre will identify needs for further developing the framework for sharing and using data in the public sector. In November 2020 new guidance on roles and responsibilities when sharing confidential information was published. The guidance is intended to help public agencies when sharing confidential information with other public entities, as well as with private businesses.

The National Resource Centre for Data Sharing will also have a more clearly defined role in guiding the private sector and other parties looking to use public sector information for business development, research and innovation. There will be a need to consider issues related to responsibilities and to ownership and usage rights so that they do not become barriers to increasing interaction between the public and private sector.

5.4.3 National toolbox for data sharing

The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency has developed the first version of a national toolbox for data sharing. The toolbox was launched in the spring of 2021 and is intended to help those looking to share and reuse data, whether it be between public agencies or from the public sector to the private or voluntary sector. The toolbox is not a physical product, but rather an online resource providing an overview of and access to agreements, solutions, standards, architectures and regulatory support, as well as an overview of roles and responsibilities.

The national toolbox facilitates simpler data sharing and reuse of public sector information by describing common public services, national common components and common standards, principles, and reference architectures. By gathering information on all the tools in one place, the toolbox will help make better use of them and identify areas where new tools are needed.

5.4.4 Framework for information management in the public sector

The framework for information management in the public sector is managed by the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency and comprises standards, guidelines and guidance material. Information management embraces activities, tools and other measures that will facilitate the best possible quality, use and protection of information in an agency. The information should be systematically organised in line with the agency’s work processes.

The framework for information management will aid public agencies in leveraging the value of their own data and exchanging and sharing data with others efficiently and securely. The framework will be continually developed according to the agencies’ needs.

The Government wants more data to be shared across the public and private sectors. Several sectors that already work actively on data sharing are encountering issues with data access and user rights. Both public and private enterprises need a framework that can provide guidelines on how to proceed to share data responsibly and securely.

Further development of the information management framework will build on the experiences gained from various public-private sector development initiatives. A sector-by-sector approach to working on the framework, in close collaboration with the private sector, will ensure needs-driven development of standards, best practice and so forth.

5.4.5 Standardisation and development of standards in the public sector

A standard defines an agreement on what is best practice in each area. Standards are developed through consensus-based processes where all the relevant stakeholders are invited to participate. In the public sector, standardisation is performed in the respective sectors and in public administration. IT standards that are compulsory and that are recommended for the entire public sector are included in a reference catalogue for IT standards (Referansekatalogen for IT-standarder), which is managed by the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency. The development of standards and infrastructure for connecting data is driven by governments and supranational organisations.

Technical interfaces that are incompatible, and conflicting terms of use and data formats, are examples of factors that make it difficult to realise the value-creating potential of public sector information. Data that do not match standard formats must be processed and ‘cleaned’ before they can be used and combined with other data. This work often requires domain knowledge relating to the content of the data.

Norway’s public sector has come a long way with geospatial data, where the Spatial Data Act, which governs data management and important international guidelines under the INSPIRE Directive have resulted in high-quality data that are standardised across administrative levels and countries. Other areas in the public sector have not come as far, and in these areas the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency plays an important role in providing guidance and advice.

Standardisation work demands in-depth domain knowledge, good coordination, broad support and active management if it is to succeed. International cooperation is also important. The EU currently has a number of initiatives that influence and lay the groundwork for standards that can be implemented in Norway’s public sector, such as DCAT-AP; see Box 5.10. Norway is in a good position to influence European and international standardisation work, but the work is resource intensive. The public sector should use European and international standards as far as possible in order to be able to interact internationally and ensure interoperability across national borders. This will become increasingly important for connecting data held and managed by the Norwegian public and private sector to European data in the common European data spaces.

Textbox 5.10 The DCAT standard

Data Catalog Vocabulary (DCAT) is an international standard for describing datasets, APIs and data catalogues, developed by the Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The purpose of the standard is to facilitate the exchange of dataset descriptions and data services across data portals, and to make it easier to find datasets that are published in different places.

The EU has created several application profiles (APs) based on this standard. These are specifications that are adapted to meet different needs. The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency manages DCAT-AP-NO, a Norwegian application profile of DCAT, which is included in the reference catalogue for IT standards in the public sector. DCAT-AP-NO is now used to harvest dataset descriptions from public agencies to data.norge.no, the national data catalogue, and to exchange them with the European Data Portal.

Implementation and development of standards for sharing and using data

In 2021 the Government has allocated funding to Standard Norway’s work on IT standardisation in general and on following up cyber security standardisation. This work will contribute to the adoption and expanded use of standards, to strengthening Norway’s participation in international IT standardisation efforts, and to transfer competence on these topics between Standard Norway and public administration.

Standard Norway is represented in the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency’s Architecture and Standardisation Council, which has placed particular emphasis on an international perspective. The Government wants the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency to assess how it can involve Standard Norway more in the work on implementing and developing standards which support private sector needs for, for example, collecting and making real-time and sensor data available.

5.4.6 National architecture principles for digitalisation of the public sector

National architecture principles for digitalisation of the public sector will contribute to better interaction across the entire public sector so that digital services provided to citizens by public agencies are good and user friendly.

The Government’s circular on digitalisation requires government agencies and ministries to use the architecture principles. They must be used when establishing new IT solutions and when making major changes to existing IT solutions, and they apply to both bespoke and ‘commercial off-the-shelf’ software. Regarding data sharing, the principles are clear: ‘Ministries and government enterprises should facilitate sharing and reuse of data.’ The architecture principles are only recommendations, not requirements, for the municipal sector.

5.5 Datafabrikken (The Data Factory)

The Government will facilitate increased sharing and value creation using data as a resource in the private sector. The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency will develop a ‘data factory’ – Datafabrikken – in collaboration with DigitalNorway. The data factory will provide high-quality data from the public and private sectors for developing new data-driven business ideas, products and services. Collaboration between the public and private sectors will also be reinforced.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and entrepreneurs represent an important target group for this initiative. Data-driven innovation is contingent on competence, large data volumes and a digital infrastructure for data storage, processing and analysis. Most small enterprises lack this competence and capacity, and have no means of building them alone. Some of the services to be provided by the data factory will therefore be guidance related to data access and usage rights, as well as on data preparation and cleaning for use in big data analytics and AI. The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency and DigitalNorway will cooperate with established competence hubs in data-driven innovation and enabling technologies such as business clusters and research centres when establishing the data factory.

In addition to offering services, the data factory will be a driving force for pilot projects that gather stakeholders, expertise and data in different domains and problems. The first pilot projects were implemented in 2021.

The establishment of the data factory must be viewed in connection with the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency’s other work on data sharing, such as further development of data.norge.no and the National Resource Centre for Data Sharing. Experience gained from the data factory will also have transfer value for other areas and will be important in the further development of best practice, standardisation, guidance and regulations.

Figure 5.7 The Data Factory and its surrounding ecosystem

Figure 5.7 The Data Factory and its surrounding ecosystem

Source Norwegian Digitalisation Agency and DigitalNorway

5.6 The regulatory environment for the data economy in the public sector

5.6.1 Current requirements for and recommendations on sharing of public sector information

The current regulations on the reuse of public sector information are set out in the Freedom of Information Act and its associated regulations, and are largely based on the Public Sector Information Directive. The principle of public access is also a fundamental democratic principle and is intended not only to protect citizens’ right to participate in society, but also to scrutinise the actions of public authorities.

The Government’s circular on digitalisation14 contains requirements and recommendations for public administrative bodies and ministries on making data available for reuse. Among other things, the circular requires agencies that establish new, or that upgrade existing, professional systems or digital services to register their datasets on data.norge.no. The circular also states that data must be made available in line with the provisions on reuse in the Freedom of Information Act and the Government’s guidelines on making public sector information available.15 The circular recommends adopting a long-term perspective to making data available, with their integrity, authenticity, usability and reliability intact. The requirements and guidelines set out in the circular must be followed up in the ordinary management dialogue. The degree to which it is given priority varies across the sectors.

No specific guidelines apply for municipalities concerning the reuse of data beyond the provisions in the Freedom of Information Act and the Spatial Data Act. In other words, the municipalities are not generally required to facilitate data sharing, but should the demand rise, they are required to make them available or share them if this can be managed using simple and cost-efficient procedures. It is up to the municipalities to decide whether to follow the Government’s guidelines when making public sector information available.

The general rule under the Freedom of Information Act is that access is given free of charge. The Freedom of Information Act, section 4, allows for payment to be charged in certain situations. If converting to different formats or storage media is necessary and results in a significantly higher cost than regular copying, the actual cost may be charged for. In some cases, marginal costs and the costs associated with retrieving information and making it available may be charged for, with an additional charge for a ‘reasonable return on investment’, meaning a reasonable profit. First, this applies where the information is produced or adapted solely to meet the needs of external parties. Second, it applies when the body in question operates on a commercial basis or is fully or partly self-financed, and where it is established that payment for information will constitute part of the body’s income.

The agencies may also charge for geospatial data (such as maps) and property information. The general rule in such cases is that a charge can be made for marginal costs and for the actual costs associated with collection, production, reproduction and mediation of the information. Agencies that prepare and deliver such information as one of their primary tasks may also charge an amount constituting a reasonable return on investment. This currently applies primarily to the municipalities.

5.6.2 Consideration of new rules on data sharing for reuse

EU data policy and regulatory development, combined with new technological possibilities, give good reason to consider new national regulations on the reuse of public sector information. A possible duty by the public sector to actively make information available, for example selected datasets, should be included in this consideration. It should also be considered whether the specific rules on reuse should be removed from the Freedom of Information Act and incorporated into new legislation.

Any new national legislation must be viewed in connection with the work on implementing the Open Data Directive (ODD). Guidelines in the European Commission’s data strategy, the proposal for the Data Governance Act and changes arising from the Open Data Directive will have consequences for the Norwegian public sector.

An important change in the EU’s new Open Data Directive is the introduction of the concept of high-value datasets whose reuse can have major benefits for society. Access to these datasets must be given free of charge via APIs or as bulk downloads where appropriate.16The Open Data Directive defines six thematic categories:

  • geospatial data

  • earth observation data and environmental data

  • meteorological data

  • statistics

  • companies and company ownership information

  • mobility data (transport data)

The work on specifying which datasets should be included within the thematic categories is currently under way in the EU, and Norway is participating in this work.

The law firm Kluge AS has examined to what degree Norwegian authorities can impose a duty on public bodies and agencies to actively, and on their own initiative, make public sector information available. The report was commissioned by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. Kluge AS notes that, in principle, Norwegian authorities are free to establish such legislation, but points out that legislation which for various reasons protects information will place limits on such a duty. Such limits might involve privacy, intellectual property rights and security.

A duty to actively make public sector information available would depart from the current principle in the Freedom of Information Act that any person wanting information from the public sector must request access. At present, the agencies do not need to assess whether or not information can be made available until they receive a request for access. They then have to assess whether or not to impose any restrictions on the material requested prior to publication. This applies regardless of whether the request for access pertains to a document or a dataset. A duty to actively publish information will mean that continuous assessment would have to be made of whether content can be published. This also raises the question of establishing clearance procedures for publishing all the information that already existed before any new regulations came into force.

In the report, Kluge AS notes that the Government’s circular on digitalisation is not perceived as particularly binding, that its status as a source of law is low, and that there is no recourse to impose sanctions on agencies that fail to comply with the orders in the circular. It should therefore be considered whether parts of the circular should be incorporated into new legislation. Consideration should also be given to the formulation of a general order to public agencies on how they may use their own intellectual property rights in a way that assures Norway’s obligations under the Open Data Directive.

The Government will appoint a committee to consider cohesive regulation of the reuse of public sector information. The committee will look at, among other things, new legislation that can contribute to more openness and access to data, and provide Norway with a better framework for data sharing and data driven innovation that can benefit society. The committee should also consider whether a duty to make public sector information available should be included in this new regulation. If legislative changes are proposed, the economic consequences must be assessed.

5.6.3 Organisation and funding of the work on sharing public sector information

Technological development and increased digitalisation of public services allow public agencies to collect, store, use and share data in ways that were not possible only a few years ago. More public agencies are adopting technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. Case processing is also being automated wherever regulations allow. For example, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has adopted a system for automatic case processing of some types of applications for Norwegian citizenship. UDI uses the information it already has registered on the applicant and assesses whether the person in question may become a Norwegian citizen without an executive officer looking at the case.17 One main impression is that new digital solutions for sharing and analysing public sector information are also being developed in areas where public administration is already far ahead, such as geospatial data, transport and traffic data and health data. Experiences from this work may have transfer value for other parts of the public sector.

The ways in which the work on sharing data for reuse is organised and funded in the public sector vary widely. These variations are related to how the sectors and the individual agencies are guided: political objectives, legislation, and economic incentives, as well as international obligations. They are also related to competence, sharing culture and innovation culture. For example, the Norwegian Mapping Agency and Statistics Norway have sharing as an important part of their social mission. For other public agencies, the task of making their own data openly available to others may be considered to lie beyond their core activities and is therefore given low priority. Some agencies have received requests from the private sector or other data users and have made datasets openly available in response. For example, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has decided to make fisheries catch data available on its own website under a Norwegian Licence for Open Government Data (NLOD). These data are used for purposes such as business development and research.

Potential funding models for data reuse

There are some costs involved in making public sector information available for reuse. In addition to investing in digital infrastructure for storing and sharing data, resources are needed to identify which data can be shared, facilitate sharing (cleaning) and publication, and carrying out information activities to stimulate use. At the same time, many of these activities make up part of the agencies’ efforts to keep ‘Order in one’s own house’. This means describing their own data, concepts, information models and APIs, and actively sharing data in accordance with national guidelines. In addition, there is a need for new measures to increase the pace of the work and achieve the goals.

Following up potential users can also demand resources. While some datasets are published annually, others are updated in real-time. It is often critical that datasets be supplied at the right time and quality because they may constitute an important part of private companies’ business models. Real-time, or close to real-time, publication requires more resources than publishing a single dataset.

Some public agencies have chosen to pass the economic burden and responsibility for any adaptation and cleaning of datasets onto the users, while other agencies consider this part of the service they provide.

Charging fees for access to public sector information can have adverse consequences for openness and transparency in society. Barriers to accessing information leave fewer opportunities available to verify the grounds for decisions. Moreover, in some sectors, such as the environmental sector, large parts of the data collection are funded by the private sector in connection with environmental assessments that businesses are legally required to do in order to obtain licences and permits. It would be unreasonable if the same businesses subsequently had to pay for access to the data.

Surveys show that providing public sector information free of charge rather than charging for it can prove economically profitable. Vista Analyse has estimated the economic benefit of free map and property data to be worth at least NOK 70 million annually, and that this will likely generate jobs for between 300 and 700 people.18

The Government wants to make it simpler to develop solutions based on property data. Data on property from the Land Registry and Cadastre will therefore be made available free of charge. This will reduce the Norwegian Mapping Agency’s income from fees by an estimated NOK 11 million from 2021 onwards.19 In addition, the Government proposes that data pertaining to ownership, which arise through title registration and property registration, be made freely available. This will reduce costs for data buyers and contribute to the development of new digital services.

The national geospatial strategy raised the dilemma between the wish to provide more geospatial data as open public data and the need for predictable funding for collecting and managing detailed map data. Increasing amounts of data and new user needs may affect the conditions for funding and collaborating on managing and maintaining geospatial data. The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation has therefore begun to look at the challenges of existing schemes and to consider alternatives.

Regarding making health data available for secondary use, a large-scale project is under way to put in place a health analysis platform as a digital platform for sharing health data. The Norwegian Directorate of eHealth has conducted a study of the funding model for the health analysis platform and the Health Data Service as a first-line service for providing access to data. The directorate recommends a model that combines basic funding from the national budget with different forms of user financing.

Similar work is being conducted in the knowledge sector. On commission from the Ministry of Education and Research, the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT) has examined different concepts for sharing data in the knowledge sector in connection with a new digitalisation strategy for universities and university colleges. This work is being followed up by the Ministry of Education and Research.

Mapping and evaluating the data economy in the public sector

Increased sharing of public sector information for reuse will create a need to ensure longevity, predictability and standardisation for those who produce and manage data. It is important to ensure continuity in data production, acquire data that hold a high quality, and to facilitate reuse. The various sectors’ choice of organisational and funding models for sharing and using data must be respected. At the same time, pricing and payment models must be transparent and sustainable when upscaling, particularly in the public sector. There is also a need to develop methods for measuring the effects and benefits of open public data for society, the business sector and for the public sector. The last general report on the pricing of public sector information was published in 1994.20

Current knowledge is based on isolated reports within some sectors and for some types of public sector information, and is therefore fragmented.2122 The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation will map, evaluate and recommend different organisational and funding models for data sharing and the reuse of open data. As part of this work, it will also look at challenges that arise when the private, voluntary and public sectors collaborate on data. Such challenges can be division of costs, government subsidies and procurement regulations, as well as which business models can be used. This work must be viewed in connection with the work of the committee considering a cohesive system for regulating data reuse, and with the European Commission’s proposal for regulatory measures in the digital area, such as the Data Governance Act.

5.6.4 Public-private sector development

The Government has been working for many years on reducing the private sector’s administrative costs associated with reporting to and communicating with the public sector. The Brønnøysund Register Centre plays a key role in this work and is an important national source of data on Norway’s private sector.

An initiative has been taken to cooperate in a number of public-private sector development (OPS) projects. OPS projects entail facilitating economically profitable cooperation in relevant business sectors. Projects in a number of sectors are discussed in more detail in chapter 4.3. Achieving value creation through digital solutions and data sharing are important objectives of the scheme.

5.6.5 Digital collaboration between the public and private sectors

The Public–Private Digital Cooperation (Digitalt Samarbeid Offentlig Privat (DSOP)) is an initiative between the Norwegian Tax Administration, the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, the National Police Directorate, the Norwegian Mapping Agency and the financial services industry. A key component in this cooperation is that any gains from the various measures should benefit the public sector and citizens, as well as the financial services industry.

By using Altinn’s functionality for giving consent, citizens will be able to allow (or deny) a specific public or private third party time-limited access to their financial data. Use of consent creates more opportunities to exchange data between public and private enterprises and to develop new services while saving money for everyone involved. For example, banks can now offer their customers the possibility to see the balance on their student loans directly in their online or mobile bank, provided they have given the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund consent to share this information with their bank. The consent must have a maximum duration of one year. The service uses a solution called Maskinporten for authenticating the entities using it. Maskinporten is a common solution for access management for entities that exchange data. The solution guarantees identities between entities and provides machine-to-machine authentication.

Another digital service that has been developed is an automatic consent-based loan application process (Samtykkebasert lånesøknad) which enables loan applicants to give their bank consent to retrieve information on their tax base and income from the Norwegian Tax Administration. Since this information is transferred automatically to the banks’ own systems, the banks avoid having to register tax assessment and income data manually. The solution will ensure a good customer experience for loan applicants by making the process simpler and safer. Moreover, the fact that the loan applicant only consents to sharing whatever information is necessary for processing the loan application means that the solution will contribute to protecting privacy.

Other digitisation projects are being carried out under the Public–Private Digital Cooperation initiative where data sharing is important for their success. The ‘Death and inheritance’ initiative constitutes one of the seven life events highlighted in One digital public sector: Digital strategy for the public sector 2019–2025. The project on Settlement after death constitutes a key part of this life event.

The process of settling an estate after a death is currently a difficult and time-consuming process for the heirs. It is a manual, paper-based process that involves multiple parties. One of the main challenges is that it can be time-consuming and difficult to gain an overview of all the deceased’s customer relationships. A digital user journey, where heirs can be guided from start to finish, will have value for them. It is also expected to be simpler and cheaper for the various parties involved, both public agencies and businesses. Data sharing between public and private entities is a key prerequisite for realising this solution.

Settlement after death is a collaborative project between the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency, the Brønnøysund Register Centre, the courts, the financial services industry, the Norwegian Tax Administration, the Norwegian Mapping Agency and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. The project began in 2018 and plans to deliver a minimum viable product with key functionality in 2022.

Opportunities for the private sector to use common public IT solutions

On commission from the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, the law firm Wikborg Rein prepared a report on private entities’ use of common public IT solutions and assessed the legal barriers and opportunities.

The report addressed the challenges associated with legislation governing government subsidies and procurement. The assessment shows that making common public IT solutions freely available to private entities would be problematic. To comply with regulations, private entities’ use of public IT solutions must support the exercise of public authority, and access must be incorporated into any contracts entered into with the solution providers.

The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency will consider how the report’s conclusions should be followed up in further work on the common solutions managed by the agency.

5.6.6 Access to data through procurements and partnerships

Some activities performed in the business sector are commissioned by the public sector. The regulations for public procurements are primarily intended to promote efficient use of resources in the public sector, but can also be used to achieve other objectives that are important for society. For example, the public sector can set guidelines on data access in notices of public tenders, and can seek better and innovative use of data through its procurements. This opportunity to stimulate data-driven innovation in the private sector is currently not taken full advantage of.

Using procurements as a policy instrument to stimulate the data economy can entail giving the private sector access to public sector information for developing new solutions. It can also secure the public sector’s rights to data that are a part of deliverables to the public sector, either for internal use or for making the data openly available.

Data rights requirements in notices of public tenders and contracts

Greater awareness of and knowledge about data and data sharing may lead to more public sector procurements requiring suppliers to make it possible to access and share data. A major problem today is that data in many cases are ‘locked in’ to the specialised systems used in the public sector. This creates a major barrier to good data management and sharing, particularly in the municipalities. Setting common requirements in procurement processes can make it easier to get suppliers of such systems to develop their solutions so that public-sector customers can easily access data from them, both for their own analyses and for sharing with others.

The Government will consider amending standard government contracts and developing separate contract templates to give public agencies the possibility to define rights to data that are collected in connection with deliverables from the private sector. Guidance from the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency and the Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management will make it easier for small and medium-sized public agencies to assess when they ought to set requirements for access to such data in connection with procurements. The use of standards and templates will give the business sector more predictability around issues of ownership and usage rights to data in procurement processes.

Cooperation with the market through innovative procurements

Public agencies must avoid competing with the private sector on developing digital solutions and instead take advantage of the innovative power in the private sector to develop public digital services. The Government sees a need for new ways in which to cooperate with the market by leveraging the potential of innovative public procurements. In the autumn of 2020, the Government launched StartOff, a programme for innovative procurements from start-ups. StartOff will make it easier for start-ups to become suppliers to the public sector by facilitating fast and simple procurement processes, setting less detailed specifications and short development pathways. By setting requirements in the procurement processes, the public sector can also facilitate more cooperation between large established companies and start-ups. This type of innovative procurement process will also offer start-ups opportunities to use public sector information to develop new products and services.

5.6.7 Access to public sector information using licences and regulations

Data that are generated by activities in the private sector commissioned by or under permit or licence from the public sector must in principle be deemed a public good and can therefore be used by others. Some activities in the business sector are performed for the public sector or under permit or licence granted by public authorities. A licence grants a private business a specific right to financially exploit something that is owned by or at the disposal of the state. Conditions can be attached to this right, which gives the public sector an opportunity to set requirements for making data available in connection with awarding licences or granting permits. Requirements for data sharing can also be set out in regulations.

In some cases, it may also be appropriate to set requirements for sharing private sector data with the public sector in areas where this will significantly benefit society. The Government will consider when it may be in the public interest to require that data from the business sector be made available. The Government will also examine whether requirements for data access in connection with granting government licences might be a suitable policy instrument in this regard.

The Government has set out the following principles for sharing data from the business sector:23

  • Voluntary data sharing is preferable, particularly between parties with a mutual interest in sharing data.

  • The authorities can facilitate the sharing of data which businesses themselves see no value in sharing, if sharing such data will enhance public benefit.

  • Data sharing can be made compulsory if necessary, for example for reasons of public interest.

  • Data must be shared in such a way that individuals and businesses retain control of their own data. Privacy, security and business interests must be safeguarded.

Some examples

Aquaculture is operated on a licensing system. The Aquaculture Act, the Food Production and Food Safety Act and the Animal Welfare Act state provisions governing duty of disclosure. The aquaculture industry is currently required to report detailed information to the authorities. Under the Aquaculture Act, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries may require anyone engaging in aquaculture to have and use equipment and software with specific reporting functions.

The Ministry of Petroleum conducts annual licensing rounds in which production licences for the Norwegian continental shelf are awarded through the Awards in Pre-defined Areas (APA) scheme. The scheme was first introduced in 2003 to facilitate exploration activity in the best-known areas of the Norwegian continental shelf. Because the areas are already well known, no new major discoveries are expected. Exploration often focuses on smaller discoveries that would not justify independent development. Such discoveries may nonetheless be profitable if they are developed in conjunction with other discoveries and/or can utilise existing or planned infrastructure. If a company is awarded an area but does not wish to develop it, it may relinquish the production licence. The possibility to relinquish production licences also means the release of collected data under the scheme. This allows many companies to gain access to valuable data.

The Petroleum Regulations were amended with effect from 1 January 2021 to require the release of interpreted data in the reports submitted to the authorities when areas are relinquished. This will improve data access for other companies thinking of applying for licences in previously awarded areas.

Work on land use plans and zoning plans usually involves conducting impact assessments to ensure that consideration is given to the environment and society when the plans are drawn up. The Regulations on impact assessments24 contain provisions intended to ensure high professional quality in impact assessments and that the data collected in connection with conducting impact assessments are systemised and made available to public authorities.

5.7 The Government will

The Government will

  • establish Datafabrikken (The Data Factory), which will contribute to more public sector information of high quality being reused for business development and innovation

  • appoint a public committee for cohesive regulation of the reuse of public sector information

  • map and evaluate the data economy in the public sector, including making recommendations on various organisational and funding models for data sharing and the reuse of open data

  • further develop the National Resource Centre for Data Sharing in the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency to strengthen its offering of training, guidance, sharing of best practises and support with work on data sharing and the reuse of open data

  • provide guidance to public and private entities on how to regulate access to data when entering into contracts, for example using standard contractual clauses

  • further develop a framework for information management in the public sector based on user needs and experience gained from the work on Datafabrikken (The Data Factory) and the public-private sector development projects

  • further develop data.norge.no with new services and functionality for providers and users of public sector information

  • consider which areas it may be in the public interest to require that data from the business sector be made available, and examine whether requirements for data access in connection with awarding government licences might be a suitable policy instrument in this regard

  • consider amending the Norwegian Government standard terms and conditions and developing specific contract templates to strengthen public agencies’ rights to data that are collected in connection with deliverables

  • draw up common principles for cooperating with the private sector on digitalisation with a view to further developing such cooperation

  • release data on property from the Land Registry and Cadastre so that property data are available free of charge

  • contribute to developing standards for collecting and making available real-time data, sensor data, etc. from the public sector for reuse

  • develop a common methodology for measuring the benefits and effects of public sector information and rendering it visible, based on the work being carried out in the EU and OECD in this area

  • further develop national infrastructure for geographical information to strengthen data sharing and use across the public and private sectors

Footnotes

1.

Deloitte (2018): Study to support the review of Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information. Study commissioned by the European Commission

2.

Meld. St. 3 om statsregnskapet til Stortinget

3.

Ministry of Transport (2018): Strategi for tilgjengeliggjøring av offentlige data – samferdselssektoren [Strategy for making public sector information available in the transport sector]

4.

Forskningsrådet (2021): Hvordan skal vi dele forskningsdata? Utredning og anbefalinger om lisensiering og tilgjengeliggjøring [How to share research data? Investigation into and recommendations on licencing and data sharing]

5.

Unit (2020): Fremtidig deling av data i kunnskapssektoren [Future data sharing in the knowledge sector]. Concept study

6.

Kulturdepartementet (2017): Kulturdepartementets strategi for åpne data 2017–2022 [The Ministry of Culture’s strategy for open data]

7.

Prop. 108 L (2019–2020) Lov om språk (språkloven)

8.

Direktoratet for samfunnssikkerhet og beredskap (2019): DSBs årsrapport 2019 (DSB’s annual report)and kunnskapsbanken.dsb.no

9.

OECD (2019): Data governance in the public sector. In: The Path to Becoming a Data-Driven Public Sector. OECD Publishing, Paris

10.

MIT REAP (2020): Hvordan styrke Oslo og Vikens posisjon innen datadrevet entreprenørskap? [How to strengthen Oslo and Viken’s position in data-driven entrepreneurship]. Strategy from MIT REAP Oslo og Viken

11.

Retningslinjer ved tilgjengeliggjøring av offentlige data [Guidelines on making public sector information available]. Published on regjeringen.no

12.

OECD (2017): Digital Government Review of Norway. Boosting the Digital Transformation of the Public Sector

13.

Agenda Kaupang (2020): Dataforvaltning og -deling i kommunene [Data management and sharing in the municipalities]. Report for the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. Report no. R1021222

14.

Digitaliseringsrundskrivet. CurcularNo: H-7/20

15.

Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (2017): Retningslinjer ved tilgjengeliggjøring av offentlige data [Guidelines on making public sector information available for re-use]

16.

Directive (EU) 2019/1024 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on open data and the re-use of public sector information (recast)

17.

UDI: Guide til ventetid for søknader om statsborgerskap [Guide to waiting time for applications for Norwegian citizenship]. Published on www.udi.no

18.

Vista Analyse (2014): Verdien av gratis kart- og eiendomsdata [The value of free map and property data]. Commissioned by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. Report no. 2014/14

19.

Prop. 1 S (2020–2021) Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation

20.

NOU 1994: 17 Til informasjonens pris [The price of information]

21.

Vista Analyse (2013): Prising av Kartverkets tjenester [Pricing of the Norwegian Mapping Agency’s services]. For the Norwegian Mapping Agency. Report no. 2013/18 and Agenda Kaupang (2019): Konsekvenser av frislipp av geodata [Impacts of releasing geospatial data]. Report for the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation

22.

Direktoratet for e-helse (2020): Finansieringsmodell for Helseanalyseplattformen og Helsedataservice [Financing model for the health analysis platform and the health data service]. Report no. IE-1066

23.

The principles were inspired by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (2019): Dutch vision on data sharing between businesses

24.

Regulations on impact assessments, sections 17 and 24

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