The Meaning of ‘Open’ Procurement Data

Greg Barnes |

Much is being made of the potential for Big Data to improve governance in Europe. But all data sets require context. Unless this is available, the contents is less than useful.

Summer 2015 saw the EU Publications Office, through the Open Data Portal website, begin making a selection of  public procurement data available, drawn from the Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) website. This site is the main route for publication of the Official Journal Supplementary series and contains all contract advertisements and awards made by public bodies (that exceed a financial threshold). Prior to this point, the data was only available to either the Commission, or paid subscribers to the TED database.

The scope of the data is incredible, with every advertised procurement project detailed from 2009 to 2015 across thousands of Contracting Authorities. Garnering meaning from such a rich resource is however difficult for all but the initiated few. While this may well be ‘open’, without a glossary, or guide to the data, one is left floundering.

To help remedy this information deficit, and provide some much needed context, the Commission assembled just such a guide to the data table headings. This should help anyone looking through the databases to ascertain the areas that they will find most interesting or applicable for their research.

The data guide is available here:

A link to the main data set (2009 onwards) is available here:

A CSV (comma separated value) version available here:

By way of example, one may draw upon columns CPV and CAE_NAME to ascertain relationships between the Contract Authority type (local council, centralised procurement office etc) and the type of goods or services they contract (facilities management, uniforms, infrastructure etc). This may throw light on the organisation of a State’s policy implementation. While case study research may give a more granular level of detail in such matters, there is something to be said about looking across the whole Union’s economy and seeing the patterns emerge from within.