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Why cities get open data

Published 11 May 2016

If data is the new oil, it is cities that are truly realising the opportunities on offer, says Wendy Carrara at Capgemini Consulting


All the press around open data has raised expectations in terms of what companies and startups can do with this new oil. We are talking new products, new services and so on. Benefits in terms of performance, customer experience management and enhanced processes have been underlined numerous times. Transparency, accountability and participation are also key benefits the reuse of open data can yield.

Data can also be used by public administrations at different levels of government. It might sound less sexy than the popular image of a startup working in a shiny environment. But it's a fact. Government is one of the main re-users of its own data. And by making it open, data reuse is actually accelerating.

Cities get that. That's one of the reasons why we chose to work on open data in cities. We have published a series of reports on Creating Value Through Open Data and Open Data and Digital Transformation . This time , we wanted something closer to home.

This is what makes people tick and understand that open data can also benefit them, individually. It's where you park your car, where your kids go to school, where you go shopping. It's also about quality of life, the development of the infrastructure you borrow every day, the parks and cycling paths you want to see built.

It's the place you call home. We want citizens, businesses, administrations to feel close to the data buzz and see how it can benefit them directly.

Cities have started looking into open data. Publishing data fosters transparency, of course. Participation is also stimulated and civil society empowered to make the most out of the data being published. Additional benefits that cities see is in how data can be used to provide evidence for decision making.

Plotting data on a map can help locate different constructions such as bridges, roads, but also parks, sidewalks, schools, hospitals, bus stops and so on. Imagine this data made available, accessible online and reusable. Imagine being able to select the layers of data you want to plot on that map and how you can combine them.

For instance, this can provide insight into understanding where to locate defibrillators based on social characteristics of a given neighbourhood, or where to draw a new cycling path linking schools to new residential areas.

The most popular datasets are linked to mobility. Saving time when moving around the city is a clear benefit for everyone, be it by bus, car, bike or foot. Other datasets appear increasingly popular, such as those in the field of culture, detailing events, opening hours and the location of museums, remarkable places to visit, or even information about remarkable trees or tombstones that can be found around the city.

What does this mean? Data does not necessarily have to be that sophisticated to actually be interesting. It begs the question of how to determine the value of data. Not every city is comparable. They have their own cultural patterns: Amsterdam for instance has a strong connection to water, whereas information about canals and water may be less relevant elsewhere.

Cities are also very willing to share information about their policies and activities overall. All eight cities we assessed were contacted and took part in interviews and or validated our findings. They spontaneously offered to provide additional documentation, demonstrating quite some interest in what we were doing for the European Data Portal as well.

Take a look for yourself and see what you can make of our 450,000 datasets. You're bound to find some data close to home!

Wendy Carrara, Capgemini Consulting, project manager European Data Portal

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