The availability of data and information on the use of EU Structural Funds has become crucial to ensure both transparency of Cohesion Policy and creation of new economic opportunities.
The publication on the web of relevant information as open data enables, for example a tighter, bottom-up control on the results of the policy through independent analysis and investigations (this should lead to a more effective policy); new forms of citizen participation and engagement that use the data of individual projects as a “base layer” for further action, thus enabling new forms of collaboration with governments; the development of new value-added services by the private sector.
However, this benefits cannot be grasped as most data currently published by the EU national and regional authorities are not compatible yet with some of the fundamental requirements of the open data paradigm. Data, for example, should be complete, accessible, timely, machine-processable and non-proprietary. But these features are particularly rare, offered by some national open data portals specifically dedicated to Structural Funds.
This evidence raises from a research aimed at exploring the characteristics of the so-called “lists of beneficiaries” of Structural Funds, a requirement of the EU regulations for the Programming period 2007-2013, which defines at least a minimum set of information about individual projects being funded, such as the name of the recipients (beneficiaries) and the amount of funding.
The project carries out an annual survey (years 2010-2014) on the websites of all Managing Authorities in the EU (you can find more information here).
The focus is on the quality of data publication, including completeness and usability of the information provided and the availability of interactive tools to provide non-technical users with easy access to the data they are interested in.
Starting from the 2014 edition, the study also investigatesthe causes and the consequences of what is published on the web through the submission of a questionnaire to all Managing Authorities regarding: the “back office” aspects related to internal information management, which determine the quality of available data, the civic engagement activities carried out as a result of data publication and its re-use.