NGOs called on the Ministry of Digital Transformation to adjust the approach to open data in Ukraine


We call on the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine to abandon the initiative to further restrict access to public data, as making such changes not only contradicts the law, but also creates certain threats. This is stated in the statement of about twenty NGOs, including the DiXi Group think tank.

"The proposed approach of the Ministry of Digital Transformation to regulate the publication through the Open Data Portal needs to be adjusted, - comments Andrii Bilous, DiXi Group Open Data Manager, - As an option, first, to develop a certain universal approach to identify information that may pose a threat to national security. The next step is to identify those data sets, the publication of which should either be stopped completely or published with changes."

According to Andriy Bilous, the decision to close access to data at the beginning of the invasion was justified. However, at the moment it is possible to restore the publication of most of the data from the energy sector, and there are several reasons for this.

"First, the vast majority of data sets are aggregated to the regional or national level. "The "average temperature in the ward" does not allow the enemy to identify "pain points" based on open information," the expert believes. "Secondly, officials openly report to the media information that can really be classified as sensitive. Thus, Deputy Energy Minister Mykola Kolisnyk reported on the current daily level of gas production and expected production volumes for 2022. Also, the press service of the Ministry of Energy reported on the volume of coal supplies from Australia to a specific enterprise - PJSC "Centrenergo". At the same time, there are not many options for which TPP the coal came from: 2 out of 3 power plants of the enterprise are located in the controlled territory".

Thirdly, according to the expert, there are examples when the consolidated information was closed, but its primary sources are available. The most striking case is the closed license register of the NEURC, which contains information about energy companies that have licenses for electricity and heat production, gas supply and other activities. However, all this data can be seen in the Regulator's resolutions published on the website.

The Ministry of Digital Transformation has recently announced a public discussion of amendments to the draft resolution "On Amendments to the Resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 835 of 21 October 2015 and No. 867 of 30 November 2016".  The explanatory note states that this draft was developed to ensure the implementation of the state policy in the field of open data under martial law, as well as to ensure the sustainability of the implementation of the open data policy.

Instead, the statement of civil society organizations notes that today the publication of datasets in the form of open data is carried out according to the following principles: openness by default, efficiency, availability of use, interoperability, permanent applicability and inclusive development.

The Ministry of Digital Transformation proposes to allow information managers to deviate from these principles when publishing datasets in the form of open data in the state of emergency or martial law. Also, to allow in "manual mode" to allow partial or complete termination of access to the published data sets using the application programming interface.

"Such changes in practice will lead to the fact that each body will be able to close the information without any explanation, referring to the martial law, which has been lasting for 6 months in Ukraine," the statement said.

The authors of the statement emphasize that as of today there are no studies or analytics that would confirm that the publication of open data has harmed the lives and health of Ukrainians. The adoption of the 835th Resolution took place in the second year after the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war with the involvement of international experts after assessing Ukraine's readiness according to the ODRA methodology and after several months of public consultations. Since 2015, Ukraine has gradually increased its openness ratings in the Open Data Barometer and Open Data Index.

The Ministry of Defense also did not provide information that any war crimes by the Russian Federation were related to the use of state public registers. Instead, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine admitted that "databases of Ukrainian citizens fall into the hands of Russian occupiers during the seizure of administrative buildings or with the help of collaborators-traitors".

The approved list of public information sets in the wording of February 11, 2022 does not pose any threat, the signatories of the statement are convinced.

In addition, the introduction of such amendments to the bylaws not only contradicts the legislation in the field of public data, but also poses a threat to the development of open data in Ukraine.

The Ministry of Digital Transformation, in cooperation with the national security agencies, can develop a universal approach to the definition of information, said Andriy Bilous. Namely, to develop a clear list of indicators that cannot be published, which can be published only in aggregate, which can be published with a delay of a month. It is necessary to identify possible situations when restricting access does not make sense, because the data are published in other external sources.

According to DiXi Group, only about 25% of all energy managers continue to publish information. The lack of official statistics increases the space for manipulation and, accordingly, reduces the opportunities for experts and the public to reasonably explain, propose or criticize certain actions or decisions. That is why DiXi Group think tank, in response to the initiative of public discussion of amendments to the resolution on open data, sent its proposals on energy data to the Ministry of Digital Transformation.


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