Using Open Data in Russia

Using Open Data in Russia

In this article, I would like to briefly disclose the concept of open data, as well as the relevance of such information to commercial and government entities in the Russian Federation. The current state of affairs and options for the development of this direction will be considered.

First, we need to find out what is meant by open data. In its essence, this is a collection of all publicly available databases and information in the public domain, which can be used for various purposes. The use of open data in the Russian Federation is regulated in accordance with Federal Law No. 149-FL “About Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” of July 27, 2006, and document No. 6 dated September 19, 2016, approved by the Governmental Commission for Coordination of the activities of the open government, entitled “Typical conditions for the use of publicly available information placed in the information and telecommunications network Internet”. Open data are controlled by government agencies and the Open Data Council.

How currently open data are used in Russia

Open data are actively used by commercial entities and individuals. Their main purpose is to improve products, services and create new useful products for personal and public use.

The most popular areas currently are the state purchases databases, an exchange rates summary provided by the Central Bank and commercial banks public information, the federal database of addresses in Russia, information from GLONASS and many others.

Now there are about three dozen services monitoring the same state and municipal orders and purchases database (for example, Bikotender or Zakupki 360), checking counterparties (Kontur.Focus, Spark.interfax, Kommersant.Kartoteka) that uses the open data directly. By gathering data together and adding commercial ingredients, they create unique commercial products that are used by many people for personal and commercial purposes. There are also a number of highly specialized projects that are not so well known and are used by a limited number of people who do not want to disclose themselves.

The state still made an attempt to open its data, but you have to decide whether it turned out or not. Here are a few government projects that claim to be open data:

  • OBD Memorial – a portal with digitized data about the WWII
  • • The official website of the Russian Federation for posting information on the conduct of bidding
  • Takzdorovo – portal about a healthy way of life for Russians
  • Trudvsem – information portal about jobs in Russia

Unfortunately, the data on some portals are presented in such a way that it is often extremely difficult to analyze and use. The state has yet to work on this task.

What other open data services are available in the Russian Federation

  • • Service “Russian Schools”, which accumulates all information about school institutions throughout Russia.
  • • Service “Open Police” for monitoring and controlling police work. Citizens’ appeals and collection of ideas are also available there.
  • • The service Plandex contains a database of all new buildings in Moscow and the Moscow region and allows you to check the developer for all necessary parameters.
  • • Service Smooth – useful service for building routes for people with disabilities.
  • • Information portal about housing and communal services “Rukvartal”.
  • • Portal GosZatraty with data on state orders and expenditure of public funds.

Why is so little the open data used?

There are several reasons for this:

  1. The unwillingness of commercial companies to participate in this, talk about their incomes, disclose their business model for competitors and spend a good amount of time on processing and laying out. Their fears can be fully understood.

  2. Really useful databases can be counted on the fingers. We already listed the most popular ones: the data of the Central Bank, FIAS bases, and information on state and municipal purchases. Most other open data are meaningless sets of letters that are difficult to use somehow.

  3. Misunderstanding by the structures of the value of information and the need for its disclosure. Even with amendments to the law, many officials are skeptical about disclosing data and do not understand at all who and why all this is needed, as it can be used for good.

  4. Low interest in open data from consumers. So far, consumers do not always see the opportunities that open data give. The main users worldwide are civil society, journalists, educational institutions and commercial structures. Civil society in Russia already practically does not exist, the number of independent non-profit organizations tends to zero. Journalists are under pressure and can not always afford an objective assessment, in addition, they do not particularly want to enter into a dialogue with the state and lobby for the interests of open data. Commercial organizations in terms of using open information can be divided into two types: the first does not want to contact any state authorities because of fear and distrust, and the latter collect data only to increase their own profits and obtain profitable government orders. And the last consumers, this is mainly universities. Throughout the world for research and study opportunities for students, access to the latest and up-to-date data in the studied field is assumed, while in Russia such a database is simply not available. Although the availability of such a base could contribute to serious scientific discoveries and successful new research in various fields.

Conclusion

Of course, in terms of using open data to solve problems at the state and commercial level, Russia lags far behind other leading world countries. However, recently there has been a clear trend towards increasing the importance of open data and its massive use for various purposes. An example is the initiative of Ivan Begtin to create a non-profit organization promoting the idea of openness of these state institutions and enhance the information culture in the country as a whole. In fact, the potential of using open data is huge, and the directions of use are much larger than what is currently involved. And, despite total state control to this topic, the development of open data in Russia does not stop, although the pace leaves much to be desired. Data on the criminal situation, municipal statistics and geodata are still inaccessible. But in practice, demand for data on the climate and transport environment, which gives hope for the future use of open data in Russia.

Co-founder of cloud based web scraping and data extraction platform Diggernaut

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