#Opendata status in European capitals

As a follow-up of my previous article on “why #Opendata matters in the networked society”, I have decided to have a closer look at what each of europe’s capitals has done so far to provide access to its precious data. There is a consensus now in the industry that the data available by governments can no longer be locked in  as there is soo much to gain by making it open. The European union has estimated that the overall economic gains from opening up public sector information could generate up to 40 billion euros a year in the EU, and there are today more than 6000 datasets registered on the european union’s open data portal.  The status of the opendata initiatives in Europe and the focus varies though from place to place, so I decided to have a closer look at  what the different european capitals are doing.

The description and comments below reflect the status as of Mid-October 2013 and is my personal assessment.  The research was done by searching for official opendata sites in each of europe’s capitals and government sites. For very small countries, I used the national sites or the largest city, made a search on datahub.io, but some countries still remain as “blackspots” on the map so I encourage you to provide feedback on this article so I can publish a better version of the assessment in the near future.

So why looking at #Opendata status in european capitals?

First of all, the capitals provide a good barometer on how Europe is opening up to opendata and the openweb. Opendata projects in a country are often  initiated at different levels: there are national projects that are driven by the government needs, there are regional initiatives driven by the regional administration and then there are urban initiatives which are kick-started in the interest of a city’s administration. But the main reason I am interested in the capitals is because they are in control of many data sources, and this is where I can see quick monetization opportunities as well.  And monetization is a good trigger to open up more data. To do these assessment, there are four aspects I am interested in understanding:

  1. How many sets are published, to get a quantitative assessment of the status and draw a heatmap
  2. What is the nature of the data that is shared, so that we see where the focus is for the city. It can also be used to see any “anomalies” or “creative” approaches
  3. Is there an API available to access the data
  4. What type of apps are being developed?

Quantitative view of Opendata – A European Heatmap

So here is the European opendata heatmap showing how many datasets are published in each of Europe’s capitals.

Heatmap

For many of the eastern european countries I couldn’t find any official links so I used the results I got from datasets stored on datahub.io and filtered by country (Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Poland Slovenia, bosnia, montenegro, macedonia). This means that reality might look slightly better for these countries, but it still seems that government driven opendata initiative in eastern europe are lagging behind.

At the top of Europe’s capitals is Helsinki with more than 1000 datasets published, followed by London and Rome with both around 500 datasets available. I am not so surprised to see the nordic’s in the lead, nor large cities, but more surprisingly you can see countries like Austria among the leaders with Wien having about 200 datasets and Austrian government about a 1000 datasets.

Looking at the disparity between smaller countries is quite interesting since some of the them are really lagging behind while others like Austria, Switzerland and the nordic are more of pioneers. In many of these countries the effort is also related to open government or e-government initiatives.

If you have access to better information or find some of the sources erroneous please let me know and I will try to correct. The heatmap is based on the following excel data OpenData-Europe.

Nature of the data published
It is when you start looking at what is published that it becomes really interesting. In France for instance you can see that the main agenda of the government is transparency, but is all of it useful? While the city of Paris has about 100 datasets published, the french government has a massive 300.000 datasets focusing only on employment and social policies, but I haven’t see much outcome when it comes to employment policies. Food for thought! In Rome 190 of the 500 datasets are about elections, seriously? On the positive side Italy is very active when it comes to collecting environmental data, while France is really lagging behind.
Maybe this is also a reason why some countries seem to be lagging behind when it comes to the number of datasets, when they are in fact more of pioneers on how the data is used. So it is not only about publishing the data but also making sure somebody will benefit from it.  it is not only about volume but also about usefullness. So while statistical data is of moderate interest, it is really goelocation data, environmental data and traffic data which is high on the agenda of the pioneer countries. Culture, food and healthcare are closely following.  Sweden seems to be low on the number of data sets, but the city of stockholm has one of the best portals with a simple structure and visualization, so usubility is very high.
Among some of the oddities in the datasets I am surprised that only Brussels is publishing location information about public access to Wi-Fi hotspots. Interestingly also is that Berlin is the only capital publishing data about consumer rights protection. When you start browsing the themes under which data is grouped, you will also notice that there is no normalization across categories, which means that it is not easy to link different datasets.

Access to the data and API

Data is usually publish in CSV, XML or other popular data format, but it is interesting to see that more and more countries are now providing API access to the datasets they publish. The access is usually done using an HTTP REST API, which means it is targeting the broad community of web developers.

The API access is becoming increasingly important as soon as you need to provide access to real-time data and some cities like Madrid or Wien are providing real-time access to traffic data. Metro and bus status updates are provided every couple of minutes to make sure the application developers can develop valuable applications to guide citizens or tourists.

API access also means that there is a bit more restrictions and developers have usually to be registered before API access is granted and some cities are even certifying the Application afterwards to make sure it does impact the peformance of the servers.

Applications of the data

One of the applications of opendata is obviously transparency. One of the best examples I have seen so far  is the London Dashboard.

Opendata-London-Dashboard

The city of London is providing an easy to understand dashboard view on key performance indicators on how the city is run and how the administration is performing.

Beside the transparency aspect, many cities are also providing access to the public sector information to stimulate innovation in particular in sectors that would help the cities economic and sutainable development.

Most European cities are now organizing targeted opendata hackathons and in 2013 hackathons were organized around the world on the opendata hack day

Many of the applications developed during Hackathons target mobility in the city. From finding restaurants to parking spaces to cultural hotspots every data that help us improve our city lifestyle can usually find a taker.

Share you #Opendata experiences

If you are a novice to Opendata I hope that this article gave you a bit of an overview of what is happening in Europe, but for those of you working daily with opendata I would love hear about your projects and experiences. What type of applications are being developed? How is linking of data across europe and how are regulations around data evolving? And please, if you have data sources I missed, please share!

 

10 thoughts on “#Opendata status in European capitals

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  4. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone
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    • Thanks, I am glad you like it. If it is your first blog, then I can recommend wordpress is a good start. I designed the blog myself and I used one of the free wordpress themes.

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