Editorial Summer 2012
It seems that not many people have heard of the term PSI Re-use, yet it has the potential to have a strong impact on our industry over the next few years. PSI is Public Sector Information which is data or information gathered by Public Sector Bodies or PSB’s for governments. Examples of PSI are business registers, land registries, cartographic or meteorological information, vehicle registries etc.
The re-use part is the key term. Some time ago, governments recognised that some of the information they gathered had value outside and beyond government use. They asked that the agencies who gather such data make it available to consumers and business – but at a price.
This practise continues today in many domains; the most well-known to the EO community being meteorology. However, it is being challenged. In 2003, the EC produced legislation proposing that governments should not charge more than a marginal cost for data. Now this is being reviewed and it is anticipated that next year, further EC legislation will be issued stating that PSI should be made available at marginal cost except where there are very good reasons not to.
In preparation for this legislation the EC commissioned a study called POPSIS (Pricing of Public Sector Information Study). The results of this were published last year and make very interesting reading. POPSIS had 2 main results:
1. Where PSI had been opened up following the 2003 act, in most cases the increase in use of the PSI was dramatic.
2. Where PSB’s do impose charges, in most cases, the revenue generated is less than 1% of the body and barely covers the costs of selling the data.
The conclusion is clear, that opening PSI up for re-use has a dramatic effect. However, evidence is now building that not only is there a qualitative impact of a free and open policy but that also this can bring wider economic benefits.
The revenues collected by the PSB’s covers less than 1% of their costs and barely cover the cost of selling the data. By opening it up to many more users free of charge or at marginal cost, these users are then generating economic value. If we take one case that is highlighted, that of the Dutch meteorological service (KMI), when charging was ended in 2003, revenues from businesses went to €20m from €5m before the data was opened up. According to Eurostat, the average tax take in Europe is around 40% of GDP (value-added tax, social taxes, income tax ) which means the economy has gained €20m and the exchequer has gained an additional €6m in tax revenues (from €2m to €8m).
So what about EO in all this? I first became interested through formulating EARSC position on GMES. The downstream industry want access to free data convinced that this is the best way to develop the market. Intuitively it must be the case, as in the other instances, if more data (PSI) is used more economic value can be created and more PSI will be used if it is free. However, can we show that in addition to more use, more economic value will be generated?
We hope so and are planning just that through a study recently started sponsored by ESA. We are looking at examples from other domains and how to link them to EO activities. We shall look at both qualitative and quantitative benefits and we shall draw conclusions and make recommendations on policy. Our work will continue into the autumn when we shall publish results that will be presented in an open meeting in October.
As a first step, we took the opportunity of the EARSC AGM on 6th July to organise a workshop on the subject. We had a number of very interesting presentations and discussions on the European legislation, the impact of PSI re-use in some of the other domains and how this could translate into the EO domain, the relevance of Inspire and the experiences in the meteorological business area. I am looking for as many examples as possible where business has been generated using free data from satellites and if you have any that you know of I shall be very pleased to hear about them.
EARSC Secretary General