PAs are “data custodians”: how to build public trust and not waste resources (also through metadata)

Public administrations are data custodians, and every user must always be able to govern his or her data, while one or more entities are keeping them: “Metadata are the essential information for the citizen: they tell us where the data is, who is using it, and why” highlights Mario Vellella, Irion’s Domain Advisory Manager, at the PA Data Management Summit 2023 in Rome.

That’s why, even in light of the recent Data Governance Act, governing data is key to build usable systems. Establishing ownership helps to correctly describe processes”.

Not to mention the potentially hidden treasure in public datasets: “Metadata supports the analysis of intended uses: understanding in what context the data was used. Without this information, I cannot connect them to processes and consequently improve services for digital citizens. In my experience, if you can’t understand the (more or less) participatory meaning of the data, you won’t be able to reuse it and money will be thrown away, even of our taxes,” adds our expert.

Trust and data governance: the e-Estonia case

Closely related is the issue of trust: “We need an organizational system and processes to turn knowledge into a national asset. Not only do citizens not want to find themselves giving back data that PAs already have, but a Public administration should never make unfounded claims to chase simplicity or speed. It needs a good compromise so that it doesn’t get caught out and immediately lose trust in the eyes of users,” Vellella points out.

This kind of approach and mindset was the focus of the case history presented by Erika Piirmets, Digital Transformation Advisor at e-Estonia, the ICT agency in the Baltic country: “How to distribute data without duplicating it? We have a government solution (X Road) with a data exchange layer, decentralized but connected. I don’t have to be the secretary of my data if the government already has my information. Trust has to be earned: the government has to show you that it can handle it,” explained the Estonian data leader.

The Estonian case represents a market incumbent for our public administration, strongly comparable to a fintech towards a bank: it puts pressure and has no legacy,” Vellella stresses. “Our history, starting with the Romans, is our pride and distinguishing feature, but for digital transformation it is like a huge suitcase to be carried on a long journey. Digital innovations must apply to our context.” As in saying: e-Estonia will be scalable in the future (should new citizens be added with the need to manage their data) but it has not had to deal with nearly 60 million people and an ancient bureaucracy since its inception.

Interoperability and Irion for PA

During the DMS 2023 PA roundtables, one of which was moderated by Antonio Rotundo of AgiD (Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale), the theme of interoperability and fluidity in the exchange of data between public administrations, economic sectors and citizens (always taking into account privacy and security regulations) as well as the comparison of experiences and initiatives to put them at the center of data governance was central.

Thanks to its Open Data Governance Edition, the Irion EDM® platform can also support Public administrations as the engine of the workflows and rules necessary to validate the production of a dataset with the required Open Data standard. This is done in accordance with the national guidelines released by AgiD, but also and most definitely in accordance with the quality of the data in the databases, where they are made available for the different use cases for which the user entities (e.g., Regions or Municipalities) require that data.

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