Public Information Directive (PSI) implementation in two Swedish municipalities

Published date19 March 2018
Date19 March 2018
AuthorProscovia Svärd
Public Information Directive (PSI)
implementation in two
Swedish municipalities
Proscovia Svärd
Department of Information Science, University of South Africa, Pretoria,
South Africa and Södertörn University College, Stockholm, Sweden
Purpose This paper examines the implementationof the Public Sector Information (PSI) directive in two
Swedish municipalities amidst a changing information management landscape impacted by e-government
development. Government informationis currently looked upon as a gold mineand raw materialto be
explored by interested parties. The PSI directive grants European citizens a right to access government
informationows (PSI) in order to develop new electronic services. The Swedishgovernment implemented its
PSI directivein July 2010. Swedish municipalities have to embrace the directiveand make the PSI available to
the general public. The literature review highlighted a number of critical issues that should be addressedif
PSI initiatives are to succeed. This study revealed that the two municipalities had different resource
capacities,and the levels of e-government development varied. This meant that the implementationof the PSI
directive also varied. The biggermunicipality with a bigger budget had implemented the PSI directive and
was publishingdata sets on its website, while the smallermunicipality with a smaller budget onlypublished a
few documents. This paper,therefore, argues that the municipalities should have the same capacity if the PSI
is to be a democratic endeavor to serve all citizens. Good quality PSI will also require the municipalities to
embrace a records and information continua thinking, which highlights the necessity to proactively and
holisticallymanage the information for pluralization in differentcontexts.
Design/methodology/approach This paper builds on interviews that were conducted with four
municipal ofcers. The number of respondents is quite small because the focus was specically on people
who were responsiblefor the implementation of the PSI directive in themunicipalities. The respondents were
identiedthrough their fellow colleagues and they also recommendedeach other. Pickard refers to this kind of
approach as a snow-bowling approach. Through interviews and observation, one participant advises on
issues that need further inquiry and, hence, directs the researcher to another person who might offer more
answers. A general interview guide approach was used to solicit answers to issues such as the
implementation of the PSI directive, guidelines for PSI publication, if terms such as big data and opendata
were being used in the municipalities, if the municipalities had an information governanceplan and how it
was understood, if the information systems were well aligned to meet with the requirements of the PSI
directive, how e-governmentdevelopment affected information management and information securityand if
the municipalitieshad information security guidelines.
Findings The Swedish governmentrequires its administrations to engage in e-government development.
This development has led to increased amounts of information that the municipalities have to effectively
manage and make available to the general public. However, the municipalities operate under different
conditions.Municipalities that are nancially stronger are betterplaced to invest in measures that will lead to
better quality PSI. All municipalities are, however, expected to implement the PSI directive. The two
municipalities that were the subjectsof this study had different information management environments and
the capacity to invest in information management systems that would facilitate the management of their
information resources. The budgetary constraints faced by smaller municipalities might impact the
implementationof the PSI directive and, hence, hinder the publicationof the PSI. e-Government is meant to be
an inclusive project, and the PSI is meant forall citizens with innovative ideas. There is a risk that citizens
The author would like to acknowledge the respondents of the investigated municipalities for their
contribution to this research.
Received12 April 2016
Revised20 October 2016
Accepted12 December 2016
RecordsManagement Journal
Vol.28 No. 1, 2018
pp. 2-17
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/RMJ-04-2016-0012
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
who belong to poorer municipalitiesmight not be equally privileged compared to those living in resourceful
municipalities. This poses a democratic challenge that should concernall people interested in an open and
Originality/value Little research has so far been published on the implementation process of the PSI
directive. The discourses that have started to emerge discuss the challenges of open data without paying
much attention to the creation,capture and the management aspects of the PSI. The originality of this paper,
therefore, lies in the application of the records and information continua thinking, which highlights
dimensions that enhanceinformation management and the democratic challenges thatwill be caused by the
data divide,as municipalities have different capabilities when it comes to the publicationof the PSI.
Keywords e-Governmentdevelopment, Public SectorInformation, Records and informationcontinua
Paper type Research paper
This paper examines the implementation processes of the PSI directive in two Swedish
municipalities amidst a changing information management landscape which is due to
e-government development. European governments are encouraged to develop
e-government to establish a common framework where technologies can be deployed to
expand services, increase transparency, efciency and inclusion (United Nations
Department of Economicand Social Affairs, 2012). The implementation of e-government has
therefore, led to an increasein information, especially digitally born records,which puts new
demands on information and records management practices (The International Records
Management Trust, 2004). Government information is currently looked upon as a gold
minethat should be explored by various stakeholders to boost national development
through the creation of new electronic services. For example, Fornefeld et al. (2009) argued
that in most European public administrations, making information available to the private
sector is an indication of a cultural change.They further argued that previously the private
sector had to purchase governmentinformation.
Ideas about information and content management have fundamentally changed and
developed as a result of increased digitalization. The exponential growth of digital information
has resulted in words such as big data,open government dataand public sector information
(PSI). Big datarefers to the tools, processes and procedures that allow an organization to
create, manipulate and manage very large data sets and storage facilities (Knapp, 2013,p.215),
while open government dataare data that can be freely used, re-used and distributed by
anyone, only subject to (at the most) the requirement that users attribute the data and that they
make their work available to be shared as well (Ubaldi, 2013, p. 6). Therefore, movements such
as open-data movement are pushing for the opening up of data in the information societies to
support democratic developments and individual liberty ( Johnson, 2014). The open-data
movement emanates from access to information, the transparency and accountability culture
and the PSI directive (Shepherd, 2013). Government data is any data and information produced
or commissioned by public bodies(Ubaldi, 2013, p. 6). Open government data require the
protection of privacy and, therefore, all restrictions to access and re-use of authorized data
including legal, nancial and technological issues have to be overcome.
As government institutions engage in e-government development and use information
technology, they are generating a huge amount of information referred to as the PSI. The
PSI can be dened as any kind of information that is producedand/or collected by a public
body and it is part of the institutions mandated role(Dragos and Neamtu,2009, p. 4). The
PSI, for example, constitutes data in geographical information systems (GIS), land registry,
public weather services and other types of information that are created by public
administrations.According to a report published by the European Commission (2018),PSI is

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