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The Significance Of The New "Open By Default" Principle For Municipalities

Open data has the potential to make an immense contribution to the common good. The announcement is now coming from the federal government that municipalities and public authorities should make the raw data they collect available to the general public. We answer the most important questions about Germany's new data culture, what it's good for, and how you can get straight into implementing it.

What this post is about

  • Open Data describes the free use of data
  • Germany has committed itself to open data with its "Open by Default" strategy
  • Municipalities and public authorities are now to make their collected data available to the general public in a structured but unprocessed form
  • The metadata portal collects and displays all data sources in a clear and concise manner

There is a sense of optimism in the German offices. The reason for this is the planned amendment to Section 12a of the E-Government Act (EGovG) and the adoption of the new Data Usage Act (DNG). This regulates, among other things, the provision and expansion of open data by the federal administration. Here you can read what it is all about, what the major added values are, and what your municipality or authority can expect.

What Does "Open Data" Mean?

The term "open data" describes open data that can be freely used, reused, and disseminated by anyone. It contrasts with closed data silos that are neither accessible from the outside nor networked.

The goal is to make data machine-readable, in open and interoperable formats, and accessible with the help of digital interfaces. This means that neither Excel spreadsheets nor PDF files are used for this purpose, but that the data should be made available in its unalterable pure form and can be further processed for any purpose with citation of the source.

What Is The New "Open by Default" Principle Of The Federal Administration?

"Open by Default" means, in the first place, that unprocessed data collected for the fulfillment of public law tasks should always first be free and accessible. And, that only the exception requires a justification (such as a concretely recognizable personal reference in the data).

This opt-out principle will ensure that the further processing of statistically relevant and data protection-compliant data can unleash a great deal of potential in the administration, as well as in civil society.

What Are The Concrete Benefits Of Open Data?

The federal administration has identified three areas with great added value for society that can benefit massively from the new culture of data sharing and has molded them into its Open Data strategy:

  • increased efficiency in the administration
  • contribution to civil society and environmental initiatives
  • data-driven economic growth

The increased potential benefits in these and other areas can be explained primarily by the provision of new data in real-time and the contextual linking of existing data sets. In short, knowledge is combined and made immediately available.

A very concrete example of the relief for local administrations would be to have to process fewer inquiries from citizens within the framework of the Transparency Act since data and contracts would be made available online and accessible to everyone from the outset. This not only saves on processing procedures but also makes government action much more comprehensible and verifiable to the outside world.

What Is Behind GovData, The Data Portal For Germany?

A national metadata portal already exists under, which has set itself the task of making administrative data transparent, open, and freely usable. The goal is to provide access over time to all the uniformly structured and partially automated data collected by the federal, state, and local governments.

It is important to know: This data is still held and maintained on a decentralized basis by the respective offices responsible for collecting it. For example, in your municipality itself.

So How Does Open Data Get To The Municipalities?

Before the potential described above can be unleashed, sustainable data provision processes must first reach the local level.

The obvious first step in establishing Open Data in your municipality or public authority is to set up an Open Data office and provide it with the necessary personnel. If competencies on the topics of Smart Region, Smart City, or Open Data have already been created in the administration, it makes sense to bundle them further.

The Competence Center Open Data (CCOD) of the federal government is a great help for the implementation of all issues around the topic. Among other things, it provides a comprehensive guide with material and tools for introduction and ongoing implementation - including templates.

Complementary to this, however, there is still a justified call for federal funds to be made available for the training of and continuing education for Open Data managers. These managers could assume the function of decentralized multipliers and knowledge carriers and provide direct advice and assistance in the provision of Open Data in municipalities and public authorities. One might think of the initial identification of data stocks suitable for Open Data.

A real booster for the implementation of the federal government's Open Data strategy could also be to legally establish the role of an Open Data officer.

Examples Of The Use Of Open Data

With improved data provision and data use everywhere, the first Open Data examples have already emerged that we would like to present here.

With its Dashboard Germany, the Federal Statistical Office provides a platform that visualizes socially and economically relevant data sets in the form of graphs - for example, on topics such as the pandemic, specific price changes and the labor market.

Also from the Federal Statistical Office comes the Accident Atlas, which enables municipalities to align road routing based on street-level accident blackspots. The knowledge that was not freely available before.

Here on the blog, we have also already written for you about "digitization in the public sector", which benefits significantly from the introduction of a ticketing system with a connected knowledge database. Best of all, your smart helpdesk Zammad is available to you free of charge for this purpose.


The federal government's open data strategy brings with it many potentials for administration, business, and civil society - such as the promotion of innovation, administrative transparency, and democratic participation. For municipalities and public authorities, however, this first means establishing responsibilities and processes that enable the provision of the non-personal data they collect.

  1. What Does "Open Data" Mean?
  2. What Is The New "Open by Default" Principle Of The Federal Administration?
  3. What Are The Concrete Benefits Of Open Data?
  4. What Is Behind GovData, The Data Portal For Germany?
  5. So How Does Open Data Get To The Municipalities?
  6. Examples Of The Use Of Open Data
  7. Further Links
  8. Summary
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