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Why we should turn the tide on open data skills in Europe’s public sector

9 Mar 2023

Literacy used to refer simply to reading, writing and, occasionally, numeracy. Nowadays, however, digital literacy is viewed by many to be equally – if not more – important for economic growth and social inclusivity.

With digital literacy comes a need for the data skills that will ensure the EU’s Digital Decade goal of ‘a digitally skilled population and highly skilled digital professionals’ comes to fruition. And among the EU’s objectives through to 2030 are to give small businesses and industry access to data, as well as the ability for all parties to compete in the digital work on fair terms. This suggests open data – but what is open data and why are skills in it so important?

The open data skills gap

Open data is data that anyone can access, use and share, free of charge – subject, at most, to the requirement to attribute. Governments, businesses and individuals can use open data to bring about social, governmental, economic and environmental benefits. For example, open data can help to track the waiting time in the ER of an Italian hospital, monitor the air quality in a French city, support the construction of a public procurement dashboard for Greek small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and build an application that provides migrants in Germany with key information about the country. Some of these and more cases can be found in the’s high-level Open Data Maturity (ODM) Report 2022, which gathers insights into the state of open data in 35 European countries.

Given the great potential of open data – reflected yearly in the ODM publication – it is no surprise that more and more national governments and municipalities are publishing parts of their datasets on their national and local (open data) portals and encouraging its (re)use by citizens and businesses. Yet, the open data value chain – from the identification of datasets to the publication and reuse for creating impact – is long and requires both skilled data providers and re(users).

2023: The European Year of (open data) Skills?

Will 2023 be a turning point for open data skills in Europe? After all, it is the European Year of Skills. Yet, according to the ODM Report 2022, all EU27 Member States could do more when it comes to open data skills and training across the public sector.

So, what are EU countries doing to equip public sector bodies and citizens with the skills they need to collect, share, process, publish, and reuse open data? The state of play is described in the ODM Report 2022, which was commissioned by the Publications Office of the European Union and the European Commission (EC) in the realm of, the official portal for European open data. Coordinated by Capgemini Invent, the report discusses the findings of the annual open data benchmarking exercise conducted across European countries (EU27+). In it, we discover that open data is a cornerstone of the EC’s policy for shaping Europe’s digital future.

However, despite data proliferating, governments and public agencies still lack the full complement of skills needed to translate open data into government policy and better citizen outcomes. In fact, the ODM Report reveals an absence of adequate data skills and literacy among civil servants. In particular, we observe a need for upskilling in aspects such as data literacy in general, understanding different licenses, knowledge of the different languages (e.g., DCAT-AP), and quantitative research on the economic impact. also points to a need for greater skills in the technical, quality, legal (e.g., CC licenses) and governance aspects of making data openly available.

This is not the first time that limited skillsets have been cited as a barrier to digital and data-enabled advancement. For example, in a recent Capgemini Research Institute report, 54% of public sector organizations cite cultural challenges that include a lack of talent and skillsets as one of the barriers holding back the deployment of public sector data ecosystems.

How public sector data providers are addressing open data skills

Positively, moves are already underway to address this situation across the public sector. Almost all (26 of the EU27) Member States report that they have set up training activities to refine the data skills of civil servants working with open data.

The ODM Report identifies several best practices being deployed:

  • Establish formal qualifications: 19 of the EU27 indicate that their training activities offer a formally recognized certification. For example, as part of a national digital competencies program, the Portuguese government has launched an initiative for the digital qualification of public servants. This aims to promote the coherent execution of digital and open data policies with short-term courses on several ICT domains, including open data, provided by the national institute for competencies in public administration.
  • Collaborate with academic institutions: A program made available only for Public Sector Liaison Officers in Cyprus is delivered by the country’s Open Data Team in collaboration with the Open University of Cyprus. Participants receive a formal certification, which can then be submitted to the Public Service Commission. The program includes modules on data audits and selection of data for publication, preparing data for publication (formats), licensing, data and metadata quality, publication processes, and releasing data APIs.
  • Invest in training: In Luxembourg, regular training sessions designed to inform and support data providers cover topics such as transparency, interoperability, open data, and data management. Elsewhere, the Polish National Open Data Portal ( includes multimedia training on open data and preparation of data in open formats. This features tutorials on how to make data available on the portal, and how to add data(sets) and resources.
  • Set national policy: Some countries have incorporated skills into their national data policies. In France, for example, every ministry is expected to draw up a roadmap for data, algorithms, and source coded strategy, for which a list of skills needed will be required.

Increasing open data literacy among data (re)users

Beyond public sector data providers, there is, of course, a need to ensure the citizens, businesses and institutions who use and reuse the data gain benefit from it. Indeed, the future envisioned by the EC for Europe will have data as a foundational building block. The EC’s policies (and rationale of the annual Open Data Maturity assessment) aim to prepare EU Member States for this future with a focus on generating value for the economy and society through the reuse of public sector information – in other words: open data.

Some countries are already advancing their open data maturity by stimulating data literacy among (potential) users. The Open Data Maturity (ODM) Report 2022 points to events, such as hackathons, conferences or open data days, designed to raise awareness about open data and increase data literacy beyond public sector bodies. Focused on open data, these events are held annually at national, regional, and local level across the EU. According to the ODM 2022 assessment, 52% of EU Member States organize more than nine such events every year.

As well as upskilling today’s workforce, the employees of tomorrow will also need open data skills. The Czechitas organization in the Czech Republic, for example, runs the Digital Academy project, which, among other things, focuses on data analysis using open data. Czechitas is a non-profit organization that fosters the IT skilling of women and their subsequent integration into the IT labor market. This tackles two barriers to open data maturity, that of a lack of STEM education and the limited opportunities for women in the world of IT.

Accelerating open data learning – why now?

It is hard to envisage a world in which books, articles, and magazines aren’t accessible to everyone. And in today’s digital economy, the EC is determined that a lack of data literacy should be equally hard to envisage. Why? Because it wants the EU to be a leader in a data-driven society.

This ambition demands open data maturity. Without it, the EU risks trailing behind in the wake of those countries and regions already advancing their open data maturity, with the potential to impact economic prosperity, competitiveness, innovation, digital inclusion, healthcare outcomes, and evidence-based policy making.

Currently, however, it is clear from the ODM 2022 Report that more needs to be done to strengthen the skills of participants in the open data value chain. Even the most mature EU countries in open data (categorized as trend-setters) need to up their game when it comes to accelerating skills and training, with a recommendation for them to: ‘Work with training institutions on providing advanced open data courses and training’.

Rethinking how we build skills

Giulia Carsaniga, lead author for the ODM Report 2022, comments: “A Europe fit for the digital age is one of the European Commission’s overarching priorities. Skills will form the bedrock of this. The European Year of Skills is surely the time to rethink our approach to open data maturity and how we build the skills to accelerate it.”

The ODM Report encourages countries and data providers to do more for their national teams and for individuals, with a set of extremely useful recommendations for countries at varying levels of maturity. The academy is also a good starting point for public sector open data users as they accelerate their open data learning.


Giulia Carsaniga

Senior Consultant and Lead Author Open Data Maturity 2022
”Digital technologies can help us address today´s greatest challenges, from climate change to global pandemics. At Capgemini, we support public sector clients to make the best out of data-driven tools, promoting a citizen-centred, sustainable, and inclusive digital transformation, in line with the EU’s priorities”.

Eline Lincklaen Arriëns

Senior Consultant and Expert on European data ecosystems Capgemini Invent NL
“Digital technologies are crucial in addressing global challenges, including climate change and environmental degradation. Capgemini aims to support clients accelerate their digital transition in a manner that is sustainable to their organization, society, and the environment, and in line with EU priorities such as the EU Green Deal.”