The institutions in North Macedonia still publish data in scan-to-PDF documents


If the personnel of the institutions had been trained to work with open data and about the process of publishing this data, as well as the advanced technical aspects thereof, then this knowledge has to be put into practice in their everyday work. This is the opinion of Professor Ivan Chorbev, a Dean at the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering (FINKI), when asked why despite so much training, the employees of the institutions in North Macedonia are still scanning documents instead of attaching them as an open PDF, as the most basic form.

According to Professor Chorbev, the managers in the institutions are the ones who are responsible for the publishing of the data and decide on the ways it is done.

“The institutions’ employees are doing what their director tells them. If they have finished their training, then they should put their knowledge into practice. If, for example, the employees at FINKI’s Student Service Centre aren’t doing their job well, then I’m responsible for that,” said Professor Chorbev.


One of the most awful things is a PDF of a scanned document

According to Professor Chorbev, it is horrible to see mail attachments that are scanned documents in .pdf format.

“You cannot copy anything from it. The worst cases are those when they give you a number for a deposit slip, for e.g. a payment for VAT or Customs Tax, instead of providing the document in a format that can be copied in e-banking, and you have to type the numbers in. The distribution of scanned unclear PDFs should be stopped immediately. For the sake of work efficiency, things have to improve,” Chorbev says.

To obliterate this manner of publishing the data, according to him, it is necessary to put obligation on the software engineers who are preparing the institutions’ software applications.

“One prerequisite is that the employees are willing to do their jobs properly, but the software producers must ease the task of the clerks by providing easy exporting. The software was already paid for, anyway. When a tender call is issued, the technical specifications about the ways the software should be developed must also state a request for exporting documents to PDF. If the software exports to JPG (a picture), the managers cannot expect the clerk to work miracles,” Chorbev says.


Open data training is very important

Iva Zafirovska is a GIS development advisor at the Municipality of Karposh. She was part of the transparency and open data training conducted by the Metamorphosis Foundation.

“I’ve been working for 10 years at the Town Hall, I know the number of schools and kindergartens, but I told my colleagues to provide me with more detailed information, like the number of children, the number of boys and girls. The type of format this data will be provided is not important, as I would transfer it to Excel. Some of them provided the data in PDF that couldn’t be edited, but were open for cooperation,”  Zafirovska explains.

According to Zafirovska, it’s all up to the cooperation within the municipality and the people’s will to improve their work.

“It is easier for the economic i.e. the industrial operators, the companies, to find information, and they have no need to call or to visit our archives. They receive the data either in Excel or .csl, which is a machine code which guarantees easier processing. Now we are waiting for the Local Economic Development Sector to send me tables, I told them that I need to know how many hotels we have in our municipality. We have a cadastre of air polluters which was sent in Word, but I transferred it to Excel. At the training, we were told not to use PDFs. There are institutions where there is resistance and don’t want to use Excel because they think it is nothing important,” said Zafirovska.

Three months ago, Metamorphosis Foundation, in cooperation with the Ministry of Information Society and Administration, carried out a two-day open data training for four state institutions. The training encompassed the following subjects: General concepts of data and information, and defining the open data concept, and then, Benefits of publishing open data, open data principles, Advanced technical aspects of open data, Process of identification, cataloging and prioritization of data sets, and the Process of open data publishing,

The training is carried out within the USAID Civic Engagement Project, and the specific activity is implemented for the third time, i.e. in 2021 and 2020, ten state institutions passed the training. The training was attended by representatives of the Employment Agency, the Agency for Personal Data Protection, the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, and the Pension and Disability Insurance Fund.

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