Public organizations 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 because making such changes not only contradicts the law but also creates certain threats. This is mentioned in the statement of about twenty public organizations, including the DiXi Group analytical center.
“The proposed approach of the Ministry of Digital Transformation regarding the regulation of publication through the Open Data Portal needs to be adjusted,” commented Andrii Bilous, Open Data Manager of DiXi Group. “As an option, first of all, to develop a certain universal approach to determining information that may pose a threat to national security. The next step is to identify those datasets that should either be stopped from being published entirely or published with changes.”
According to Andrii Bilous, the decision to close access to data at the beginning of the invasion was justified. However, as of today, it is possible to resume the publication of a large part of data from the energy sector, and there are several reasons for this.
“First, the overwhelming majority of data sets are aggregated to the regional or nationwide level. “The average temperature in the ward” does not allow the enemy to determine “pain points” based on open information,” the expert believes. “Secondly, officials openly report to the media information that can really be classified as sensitive. So, Mykola Kolisnyk, Deputy Minister of Energy, reported on the current daily level of gas production and the expected volumes of production for 2022. Moreover, the press service of the Ministry of Energy informed about the volumes of coal received from Australia to a specific enterprise, which is Centrenergo PJSC. At the same time, there are not many options which TPP received the coal: 2 out of 3 power plants of the enterprise are located in the controlled territory.”
Thirdly, according to the expert, there are examples when aggregated information has been closed, but its primary sources are available. The most striking case is the closure of the license register of the National Commission for State Regulation of Energy and Public Utilities, which contains information about enterprises from the energy sector that hold licenses for the production of electricity and heat, gas supply and other types of activities. However, all this data can be seen in the resolutions of the Regulator which are published on the website.
Recently, the Ministry of Digital Transformation announced a public discussion of amendments to the draft resolution “On Amendments to resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 835 dated 21 October 2015 and No. 867 dated 30 November 2016”. The explanatory note states that this project was developed to ensure the implementation of the state policy in the field of open data in the conditions of martial law as well as to ensure the sustainability of the implementation of the open data policy.
Instead, it is noted in the statement of public organizations that today data sets in the form of open data are made public according to the following principles: openness by default, promptness, usability, interoperability, continuous applicability and inclusiveness of development.
The Ministry of Digital Transformation suggests that in the conditions of a state of emergency or martial law, information administrators should be given the opportunity to deviate from these principles when publishing datasets in the form of open data. Also to permit in “manual mode” to allow partial or complete termination of access to published data sets using an application programming interface.
“Such changes in practice will lead to the fact that each body will be able to close information without any explanation, referring to the martial law, which is already in force for 6 months in Ukraine,” the statement reads.
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. Resolution No. 835 was adopted the second year after the start 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 consultations with the public. Since 2015, Ukraine has gradually increased its openness ratings in the Open Data Barometer and Open Data Index.
The Ministry of Defence also did not provide information that any war crimes committed by the Russian federation were related to the use of state public registers. Instead, the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine admitted that “databases of Ukrainian citizens fall into the hands of the Russian occupiers during the capture of administrative buildings or with the help of traitorous collaborators”.
The signatories of the statement believe that the approved list of sets of public information in the edition of 11 February 2022 does not pose any threat.
In addition, making such amendments to by-laws not only contradicts the legislation in the field of public data but also poses a threat to the development of open data in Ukraine.
Andrii Bilous believes that the Ministry of Digital Transformation, in cooperation with the national security authorities, can develop a universal approach to determining information. Namely, to develop a clear list of indicators that cannot be published, that can be published only aggregated and those that can be published a month late. It is necessary to identify possible situations where access restrictions make no sense because the data is made public in other external sources.
According to DiXi Group estimates, among all administrators from the energy field, only about 25% of them continue to publish data. The lack of official statistics increases room for manipulation and, accordingly, reduces the opportunities for professionals and the public to give reasoned explanations, propose or criticize certain actions or decisions. That is why the DiXi Group analytical center, in response to the initiative of public discussion of amendments to the resolution on open data, sent its proposals for data in the field of energy to the Ministry of Digital Transformation.