New version Subsidytracker shows need for local open subsidy data

Today Open State Foundation launches a new version of Subsidietracker, a tool that makes 162,179 subsidies provided by 206 Dutch government organisations to 58,432 recipients searchable. In Subsidietracker ( you will find public information about subsidies and grants provided by all government ministries, 12 provinces and 89 municipalities. In addition we’ve added subsidy information from European funds to Dutch recipients.

It is still time-consuming to gain insight into subsidies provided by governments. Although annually all ministries publish grant summaries in an open machine readable format, from all municipalities only the city of The Hague actively publishes open subsidy datasets that can be found via the central government open data portal. At a local level, governments only make subsidy data available upon requests.

The single decentralised data list

Since manually collecting decentral government data is time-consuming for both reusers of open data as well as officials, Open State Foundation advocates a so-called ‘single decentralised data list’, a list of data that local governments share with the national government and other decentral governments. We believe that local open subsidy data should be part of this list.

Research on local subsidy data

In Subsidytracker you can find 37,008 grants made by 89 municipalities. Only seven municipalities have provided data over a period of three years (2013-2015). That is why Open State Foundation has done research in the way 100 local governments respond to a simple data request for information on grant records and open data.

Only 44 of 100 municipalities provided after repeated requests subsidy registers. 13 municipalities do not allow to make an information request electronically. The first reaction to the request came after 10 days. Six municipalities never replied. It took the 44 municipalities that eventually provided subsidy registers on average 12 days and needed to be contacted on average 4 times. Almost all municipalities with an online subsidy register had the data published in PDF but not in an open machine readable format. The Hague is the only municipality that has actively published several years (2012, 2013, 2014 en 2015) of data in an open format and notified the central government open data portal Utrecht only reported 2014 and the municipality of Schiedam reported two PDF files.

Not the size but the political composition affects transparency

A research project by Timo Vosse-Giele at Open State Foundation found that it was not the size of the municipality but the political composition of the municipal council that affects the willingness of municipalities to grant subsidy information as open data. Municipal councils that holds representatives from political parties that draw attention to transparency and open data on both the national and the local level are more likely to influence the provision of open subsidy data than those councils in which these political parties are not represented. D66 and GreenLeft are political parties that have in various combinations with other political parties filed most local motions for public digital subsidy registers and related initiatives.

Towards a standard for local open subsidy registers

Most grant registers differ not only in size but also in terms of information from each other. The lack of a standard is a major obstacle to the reuse of these data. Simply by looking at the data we derived a standard based on available registers:

Government Organisation Recipient Chamber of Commerce ID number
Policy goal / Programme Project / Description ECL / FCL
Subsidy type Granted Amount Year

A great loss to current subsidy registers is a unique identifier for recipients. Governments often name recipients differently. Because the vast number recipients are registered with the Chamber of Commerce, it is important that governments provide the Chamber of Commerce ID number. Since grants are linked to budgets and public expenditure, it is also important to name policy objectives or the program line. Almost all grant records that are available online are published as PDF files (but usually from a source Excel file). For reuse it’s important that tabular data are published in an open format (CSV/JSON).

  "recipient":"organisation name",

Open State Foundation will continue to focus on the creation of a single decentralised data list. A list of all data that local governments provide to the central government. Such a list makes reuse of standardised local government data possible. In addition, such a list can be changed annually and enriched with new datasets. This makes open data not only available on a wider and larger scale but also easier to find. This will save huge amounts of unnecessary costs and improves reusability.