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Financial Transparency Platform for the Public Sector

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - (Financial Transparency Platform for the Public Sector)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-10-31

Budget data is hard to comprehend for citizens and decision makers alike, which decreases their chances of forming valid opinions and take stance towards the decisions of the government. To increase citizens understanding of budget data we need these numbers to be easy to understand and accessible. This requires a holistic approach combining learning materials, visualisations and explainers. OBEU offers an open-source, scalable, user-friendly software platform that supports financial transparency and accountability. By being able to manage, analyse and publish budget and spending data openly to the public, it helps preventing corruption within the public sector at all levels of administration: municipalities, national and EU levels.

The following objectives were set and reached during the project:
1- Financial Data publishing and integration employing Linked Open Data;
2- Exploratory and comparative Financial Data Analysis;
3- Participatory Budget Management;
4- Comprehensive OBEU Software Framework;
5- Cross-domain Applications;
6- Sustainable Software-as-a-Service.

Specifically, OBEU provides:
1) a semantic data model, which can be used to integrate data from different public sectors at different levels.
2) a library of visualisation tools with a user-friendly interface, which enables the visualisations of available data in different granularity and in different modalities.
3) a library of data mining and comparative analysis tools, which enables the aggregation of existing data in order to obtain new outcomes and discover trends and patterns.
4) a citizen engagement interface which enables users to interact by giving feedback with regard to the provided data, by suggesting different priorities for budgeting, or by discussing a particular transaction.

The open-source framework and portal integrates these components into a comprehensive portal. It can be deployed as a software-as-a-service for thousands of public administrations. The public sector can greatly benefit from the OBEU SaaS and tools, since the OBEU solutions can be provided at an affordable cost with the aim to boost administrative efficiency and to intensify citizens interactions with governments.
OBEU aimed to integrate budget data on the different levels of administration. Hence, a semantic data model for budget and spending has been defined. Transaction and budget allocation items are thus made available for discussion and debate by stakeholders, such as citizens, NGOs, public service companies, media organisations, and also public administration entities. The stakeholders are provided with a toolbox for creating and sharing visualisations, conducting comparative data analyses and discovering trends. Stakeholders are able to view and compare allocated budgets and transactions and give feedback on each item. This can be shared and directly exploited by public administrations so that better budget management will be achieved. The project developed the following components:
- A semantic data model,
- A financial data ingestion tool,
- A library of visualisation tools with a user-friendly interface,
- A library of data mining and comparative analysis tools,
- A feedback and citizen engagement interface,
- Comprehensive Open Data export interfaces,
- The OBEU open-source framework and portal,
- Three large-scale use-cases including stories, tools, evaluations, studies and tutorials.

In its 30 months running time, the project has developed a platform with 13 tools and 3 use-cases.
The OBEU 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 cities of Paris, Thessaloniki and Bonn are all planning to further implement the OBEU tools in their contexts. Finally, individual partners have already rolled out the tools in the first client cities. The project partners implemented the different OBEU toolboxes and solutions within their expertise and geographical locations. To this end, OBEU partners will establish a community group which is not legally binding but will maintain, advocate and disseminate the project’s results and innovative value proposition. The consortium is committed to Open Source Software and its principles. All the tools are openly licensed and the profit comes from software use and consultancy, which helps improving software and spreading it through the community. The objective is to improve financial transparency, only with as many partners, consultancies, companies, academia and the administrations we can reach this goal.
Transparency affects all citizens and to a greater extent it has direct economic impact on society as a whole. Increasing transparency has the effect of enhancing accountability in the public sector and consequently citizens’ trust in the work of public authorities. Therefore OBEU impacts a wide range of stakeholders by motivating public administrations to publish their data and enabling citizens and organisations to collaborate in generating a more transparent administration.
Public administrations are given the opportunity to easily deploy and use financial transparency applications at a low cost and customised according to their needs. OBEU can have great impact on the work currently conducted by public administrations and on the respective public perceptions by rendering feasible storage and management of large quantities of budget/spending data. At the same time, this can be done while maintaining the ability to work with multiple, distributed and heterogeneous financial transparency datasets and to extract new usable knowledge from large financial data. This will lead to the establishment of an ecosystem consisting of applications and services based on financial data related to public administrations. Finally, citizens will gain valuable insights in public spending and will be given the opportunity to interact and to participate to a greater extent in budget allocation processes that directly affect their quality of life.
It is the first time that a comprehensive and open platform is developed and capable of dealing with the entire budget data life-cycle. This platform includes also numerous studies, stories, tutorials and has been extensively tested in three large scale trials. It currently hosts more than 2,293 data packages from 78 countries.
The project has taken a great number of management and technological tools in consideration with the aim to properly address all project related aspects and involved stakeholders. These achievements have been considered in terms of exploitation objectives and business potential.
The market potential for OBEU is not only due to its unique value proposition that makes high technology affordable at a low price for municipalities, public administrations and citizens, but also thanks to the positive effects that will result by the project´s implementation. In particular, these positive effects can be summarised with the following four points: (i) stimulating the creation, delivery and use of new services on a variety of devices, coupled with open public data; (ii) more personalised public services that better suit the needs of users, (iii) reducing the administrative burden of citizens and businesses; (iv) increased trust in public administrations.