Open Data in Belgium

About Open Data

According to Open Definition Open Data is:

“Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.”

Opening up data can have many benefits:

  • Transparency and democratic access to knowledge
  • It can foster innovation
  • Improved efficiency and effectiveness of research and government services
  • Impact measurement of policies
  • New knowledge from combined data sources and patterns in large data volumes
  • Citizen participation

The Open Data Handbook provides a guide to legal, social and technical aspects of open data.

Data repositories

There are currently 4 Belgian data repositories. The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) is a maritime institute that is involved in 3 of them. They supports the free exchange of data as much as possible for scientific research at both national and international levels. Other than the maritime archives, the Université libre de Bruxelles has a dataproject concerning astronomy and astrophysics.

Belgian data repositories:

Other than those, the Registry of Research Data Repositories, lists 22 more data repositories where Belgian institutions are involved. The complete  list can be found on

Open Research Data Mandates


  • The BELSPO Open Research Data policy complies with FAIR principles and its conception is to be considered fully within the EOSC framework. BELSPO expects a provisional DMP upon submission of the grant application, and a completed DMP no later than 6 months after the start date of the project. After the end of the proejct data should be deposited in a certified and trusted data repository. The BELSPO follows the FAIR research data management principles in the template of their DMP. Furthermore it encourage re-use of research data where possible.


  • FWO demands that researchers ensure that all data relating to their research are stored securely and sustainably, taking into account the specific characteristics of the discipline and the nature of the research. To stimulate exchange of good practices and expertise a working group on research data management has been established within the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR).

Governmental initiatives

Federal Government
The federal ministerial council approved a federal open data strategy. The overarching principle is open by default. The mean principles set are:

  • “Comply or explain”: all datasets and finalised documents have to be opened up by default. When something is kept private or is available under a non-open license, the data owner is obliged to provide an explanation.
  • The default license is CC0 or licenses with no restrictions. This license has proven in the past to be the best open data license. More information on using CC0 for open data here.
  • Data should be provided in a machine-readable fashion. This is great news for app developers, yet it’s even more exciting for developers of machines that automatically discover datasets and are able to reuse datasets without human intervention.
  • All government services will have to appoint an open data champion, which is the contact point for the datasets within that organization

Special attention was given to privacy concerns, making sure all sensitive information is anonymized and the establishment of an open data-committee within the privacy commission.

(green light for the Belgian federal open data strategy by under CC-BY-SA)

Flemish Government
The Flemish government set out its blueprint for open data in 6 guidelines outlined in the concept note:

  • Open Data is set as the norm, exceptions need explicit accountability.
  • Re-use of open data is allowed even for commercial purposes, either for free or a reasonable fee.
  • Open standards should be used.
  • Where possible, original data sources should be used.
  • Local authorities in Flanders are important data providers. Cooperation across administrative levels is stimulated
  • All information of Flemish government and institutions will be collected in a central repository and can be made available after such decision of the Flemish government.

On the Open Data knowledge platform of the Flemish government a large number of data sets are available to consult and reuse. This platform hosts a divers range of datasets since it also includes various data of different governmental organizations.

Walloon government

The Walloon platform for IT initiatives (AWT) has a Open Data Forum similar to that of Flanders.  By mid-2015, Digital Wallonia will replace AWT. And Hackathon e-Gov Wallonia is actively engaging the Walloon community to use Open Data. Initiatives who make use of the Open Data of the Walloon region include:

  • Bspace which seeks to foster the accessibility for businesses in the Walloon region combining data on infrastructure, reachability, e.g.
  • Géoportail de la Wallonie is a cartographic application that visualizes geodata of the Walloon region

At the level of cities and municipalities, various local authorities have launched open data portals. They hope access to data will lead to better information for citizens, visitors and administration and will increase transparency. A number of cities also organize hackatons and contests to challenge citizens to create apps using Open Data. Following cities have open data initiatives in place:


There are various other projects and initiatives supporting, implementing and researching Open Data and its possibilities. Universities have begun to implement open data policies and start to adapt tools such as Data Management Plans to fit their . Other research institutions and organization set up their own databases. These are often linked to governmental institutions.

  • iMinds is Flanders’ digital research & entrepreneurship hub and conducts research in Linked Open Data
  • Belgian Biodiversity Platform provides free access to biodiversity data pertaining to Belgium
  • INBO: manages or supports multiple databases and interactive applications concerning nature and ecosystems
  • Vliz: provides assistance, technologies and tools to scientists and policy makers to support marine data management.


Other data initiatives are listed below:

  • Beeldbank The Image library keeps tens of thousands of images in a variety of collections.
  • Nextride keeps you up-to-date with any disruptions and provide timetable information of the bus operating company TEC.
  • VDAB provides datasets on employment in Flanders
  • Westkans provides datasets with tourist information and information on access in the coastal region.

Technical initiatives


  • Project RILOD/WILOD aims to create an Open Data Platform that collects a variety of research information to explore and will also pay attention to meta-data related to research data. The platform is linked with the research portal FRIS.
  • ORFEO at BELSPO, the Orphan Open Access Repository (ORFEO) is currently at its pilot phase stage and will be fully operational at the end of 2015.
  • OSLO: Open Standards for Administrations in Flanders

In addition to policy and bottom-up initiatives there are also a number of technical project that support Open Data.

  • Thedatatank:is a Open Sourced Linked Open Data Publishing framework
  • R&Wbase enables the distributed version control for linked data
  • Linkeddatafragments explores interfaces to solve queries at the client side with server data.

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