Tomorrow, Saturday 23 February, the third edition of the International Open Data Day will take place in cities around the world.

A day ahead of the event(s), the European Commission has ‘launched’ its Open Data portal, although it still bares the same (BETA) tag as when the Commission launched the hub in public beta last Christmas.

Either way, the portal now offers 5,855 datasets, the majority (5,680) of which comes from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

The portal has a SPARQL endpoint to provide linked data, and will also feature applications that use this data.

Home Open Data Portal 104030 EU Commission launches open data portal with 5,855 datasets, hopes it will become a catalyst for change

For the record: open data is general information that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone. In this case, it concerns all the information that public bodies in the European Union produce, collect or pay for (it’s similar to the United States government’s Data.gov).

This could include geographical data, statistics, meteorological data, data from publicly funded research projects, and digitised books from libraries.

The portal is the result of the Commission’s ‘Open Data Strategy for Europe’, which was announced in December last year and is expected to deliver a 40 billion euro boost to the EU’s economy annually.

From the data hub’s website:

This portal is about transparency, open government and innovation. The European Commission Data Portal provides access to open public data from the European Commission. It also provides access to data of other Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies at their request.

The published data can be downloaded by everyone interested to facilitate reuse, linking and the creation of innovative services. Moreover, this Data Portal promotes and builds literacy around Europe’s data.

The site provides a single point of access to data held by different departments of the European Commission, making it easy to find and retrieve datasets currently published on a multitude of different sites and portals. It also currently includes data from the European Environment Agency.

Other institutions of the Union can publish on the data hub, and the Commission hopes that in time it will provide access to data from a multitude of EU bodies.

Already, some individual EU member states have undertaken initiatives to open as much data to the public as possible: see Data.gov.uk, Data.gov.be and Data.gouv.fr as examples. The European Commission wants to work with member states to build a larger data repository on top of this.

In fact, in today’s blog post, the Commission says it’s confident that the data portal will be a “catalyst for change in the way data is handled inside the Commission as well as beyond” and promises more data will become available in the future:

More data will become available as the Commission’s services adapt their data management and licensing policies and make machine-readable formats the rule. Our ambition is to make an open licence applicable across the board for all datasets in the portal.

Furthermore, in 2013, an overarching pan-European aggregator for open data should federate the content of more than 70 existing open data portal initiatives in the Member States at national, regional or local level.

Also read:

EU Commission updates its “digital to-do list” with 7 new key priorities; emphasis on high-speed broadband

Hacking your city: Community activism 2.0

Top image credit: ROBERT ATANASOVSKI for AFP / Getty Images