Oct 31, 2017
In its 30 months running time, the project OpenBudgets.eu has developed a platform with 13 tools and 3 use-cases. Moreover OBEU has extensively tested the platform in three large scale trials, and paved thus the way for its future exploitation. It can be thus deduced that impact of the OBEU project has been significant. In this blog, the highlights from the 2,5 years OpenBudgets.eu are showcased.
OpenBudgets.eu has developed multiple standards for fiscal data. Based upon the work completed by Open Spending, the OpenBudgets.eu platform has been developed further, applying thus the Open Fiscal Data Package to a greater detail and extent. The accompanying tool - the packager - for modelling flat tabular files makes it easy for the non-technical user to upload and model any type of financial data. With regard to RDF, the OpenBudgets.eu consortium has developed its own standard, i.e. the OpenBudgets Data model. Based on extensive research, this model constitutes a flexible linked data model, allowing the linkage of budget and spending data to the Semantic web. The OFDP to RDF pipeline makes it possible to turn the OFDP modelled data and data packages to an RDF dataset in one click. Now non-technical users can independently turn their csv-budget data files into RDF datasets, getting access to the semantic web and the advanced data mining and analytics tools.
Data Analytics and Semantic Web Tools
The true innovation in the OpenBudgets.eu semantic web tools is its effort to create user-friendly tools. In the data mining work packages and analysis tools, the project has developed a number of tools that go above and beyond the state of the art providing rule-, pattern- and cluster- mining tools for financial data, which are easy to use for all sorts of users. In the field of Semantic Web data in general, the RDF browser and the alignment tool for semi-guided ontology alignment, bring the field of semantics to the lay-user and providing interactive user-friendly interfaces. Additionally, RDF data transformations and data interrogations are now easier thanks to the developed Linked Pipes ETL tool and public SPARQL endpoint.
New ways of explaining budget data: “The Good, the Bad, and the Accountant”
For explaining budget data, OpenBudgets.eu has developed the game: “The Good, the Bad, and the Accountant”. It has received wide praise both within and outside the journalism community and was featured in over 40 newspapers around Europe. J++ developed a fully new way to explain the inner functioning of the local administration, and the accompanying land, budget, cartel and corruption question. Through gamification, the user receives the information on the basics of accounting and budgeting in an entertaining and easy way.
MEP Expenses campaign
The next major media and policy success of OpenBudgets.eu was the MEP Expenses campaign. In its research on the EU Financial System, OpenBudgets.eu found that some expenses of the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) were not accounted for. Declarations did not need to be made for up to 4000 Euro per MEP, however research shows that these funds were not used for their intended purposes of holding local bureau’s and staff, but instead they were used for cross-financing the national political party, or disappeared altogether. Extensive lobbying and further investigations from investigative journalists has now firmly put this item on the political agenda.
Also for its data-collection and test-cases work, the consortium decided to work on topics at the European Union level. The European Union allocates 44 % of its total 7-year budget through the European Structural Funds. Who received these funds - accounting for 347 Billion Euro from 2007 - 2013 and 477 Billion from 2014 - 2020 - could only be traced through regional and local websites. Subsidystories.eu changes this by integrating regional datasets into one database with recipients of the European Structural and Investment Funds from 2007 onwards. Accompanying the website, journalist and civil society trainings were set up on conferences and in a 5 week long tutorial culminating in a weekend long workshop: the story hunt.
Openbudgets.eu’s Participatory Budgeting Platform (PB Platform) address some of the problems identified by citizens and public administrations. The platform is designed to enable real participatory experiences and decision-making processes, providing solutions that are easy to implement by all stakeholders involved, thus strengthening the democratic process. It has already been implemented in municipalities in the Aragon region in Spain and is set up to be further developed.
Toolbox implementation: large scale trials and first follow up
The OpenBudgets.eu toolbox and solutions were extensively tested in three major cities in Europe: Bonn, Thessaloniki and Paris. The various successful testing procedures have led to extensive evaluation reports and implementations around Europe. The Paris partner NGO - OpenBudgets.fr - have expressed their intention to become the French implementing partner for OpenBudgets.eu. At the same time, the City of Thessaloniki and its wider region are planning to further implement the OpenBudgets.eu tools. In addition to that the Municipality of Bonn will take up the toolbox in its enterprise system. Finally, individual partners have already rolled out the tools in the first client cities: OKF DE is implementing open budgets tools for the OpenNRW grant in the city of Moers, and has offered the further development of the German version of the toolbox to the city of Berlin, while OKF GR will be implementing further instances in Greece, Civio is currently servicing the Spanish market already with one solution focused on administrations with the title “Where do my taxes go? Our budget visualization tool, with more than 30 regional and local clients”.