Analytical Report 6: Open Data in Cities 2
Analytical Report n6
Analytical Report 6:
Open Data in Cities 2
Last update: June 2017
Authors: Jorn Berends, Wendy Carrara, Heleen Vollers (Capgemini Consulting)
Executive Summary ................................................................................................................................. 4
1 Introduction..................................................................................................................................... 5
1.1 The role of cities in the Open Data landscape ........................................................................ 5
1.2 Method and selection ............................................................................................................. 6
2 Open Data strategies....................................................................................................................... 7
2.1 Open Data strategy ................................................................................................................. 7
2.2 National coordination ............................................................................................................. 8
2.3 Top down and bottom up approach ....................................................................................... 9
3 Open Data portals at city level ...................................................................................................... 11
3.1 Portal structure ..................................................................................................................... 11
3.2 Portal features....................................................................................................................... 12
3.3 Portal data............................................................................................................................. 13
4 Barriers encountered by the cities................................................................................................ 15
5 Awareness and citizen engagement within cities......................................................................... 17
5.1 Strategy to reach citizens...................................................................................................... 17
5.2 Events.................................................................................................................................... 18
6 Impact of Open Data ..................................................................................................................... 19
6.1 How to measure impact? ...................................................................................................... 19
6.2 Success stories....................................................................................................................... 20
7 Future outlook............................................................................................................................... 22
7.1 Recommendations ................................................................................................................ 24
Annex I – City fact sheets...................................................................................................................... 25
End notes............................................................................................................................................... 32
n a national level, more and more European Union Member States are recognising the potential
value of Open Data and are acting upon it. Open Data portals are in place, increasingly backed
by solid Open Data policies. But it is not only the national level that matters. For a successful national
Open Data initiative, the whole publication chain should be taken into account. Cities have an important
role to play here. Specifically the larger European cities publish a lot of data on topics such as
urban planning, tourism, and increasingly real-time data in the transport and mobility area, such as
datasets on available parking spots. Moreover, cities also benefit from the use of Open Data to tackle
typical urban challenges such as congestion and pollution, and to improve the quality of urban public
services and the interactivity between the local government and citizens.
This report investigates the Open Data initiatives in eight medium-sized European cities, after having
analysed Open Data initiatives in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Paris, Stockholm
and Vienna in a previous report. Cities covered in this report include Dublin, Florence, Gdansk,
Ghent, Helsinki, Lisbon, Thessaloniki and Vilnius. All of these cities have Open Data strategies in
place, which are not stand-alone initiatives but are often embedded in broader digital or Smart City
strategies. Smart City strategies are important drivers for Open Data, as a more connected city and
the deployment of smart devices (e.g. sensors on lamp posts to measure traffic density) result in a lot
of useful data that can be used to enhance the quality of life in the city. This requires a solid data
management system and a focus on stimulating the re-use of this data to tap the value that lies
within it. Seven out of the eight cities kick-started their Open Data journey top-down driven, initiated
and guided by the political leadership of the city. Over time, these approaches also incorporated
more community led initiatives to move forward with Open Data. On the contrary, Ghent has been
successfully adopting a bottom-up approach straight from the beginning.
Almost all cities have a coordination mechanism in place with the
national level. This is important because it facilitates interoperability
of different systems and by sharing best practices and experiences,
portals can more easily overcome certain barriers. The
barriers faced by the portals are very much in line with barriers
faced at a national level, with the technical barrier being the most
persistent. The dialogue with the national level on the one hand,
and partner-cities and institutions on the other hand help the
cities to overcome these barriers. Partnerships such as the 6Aika
project (Helsinki), the ‘100 Resilient Cities’ (Thessaloniki) and the Bloomberg ‘What Work Cities Partnership’
(Florence) allows cities to standardise approaches and to exchange best practices.
The cities differ with regards to data available on their portal (from 28 datasets in Gdansk to 1,392 in
Florence) and portal features. Most of the portals are not only focused on this ‘core task’ – publishing
data - but also include features aimed at engaging with users, such as news items, event sections and
feedback mechanisms. In order to boost awareness on what can be done with the data, cities provide
tangible examples and visualisations; some even offer separate city dashboards. Other initiatives to
reach out to citizens are often centred around the practical application of Open Data, such as local
hackathons and meet-ups. Overall, this report shows that not only Europe’s most prominent cities
like Barcelona and Paris - as featured in the first report - are maturing on their Open Data journey,
but that also medium-sized cities are taking bold steps on their Open Data journey. This is important,
because cities are crucial components of the Open Data publication chain.
Cities are key
players in the
The data economy is gaining more and more prominence, with an estimated potential value of 643
billion EUR in the European Union in 20201
. Open Data plays an important role in the data economy,
and refers to the information collected, produced or paid for by public bodies that can be freely
used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose2
. Data can be considered as the new raw material,
and has become an essential resource for economic growth, job creation and societal progress.
The market size of Open Data is expected to increase by 26,8% from 2017 to 2020 to a value of 75.7
billion EUR in 20203
. Data facilitates better decision-making, and leads to more transparency and a
more sustainable environment. On a national level, more and more EU Member States recognise the
value of Open Data4
. Open Data portals are being developed and improved, increasingly backed by
solid digital policies or specific Open Data policies. But Open Data is just as relevant on sub-national
government levels. Open Data can play a key role in solving many of the challenges cities are currently
facing, such as urban planning, transportation and the inclusion of citizens in the decisionmaking
process. Open Data can help cities become smarter and more sustainable.
1.1 The role of cities in the Open Data landscape
The Open Data landscape is not a homogeneous landscape. It consists of various stakeholders, with
potentially different interests. The Open Data Value Chain5
identifies the various types of stakeholders
when considering the publication and re-use of Open Data. It lays out the steps by which raw
data is transformed into value (Figure 1).
Figure 1 The Open Data Value Chain
When zooming in on the stakeholders involved in the supply of Open Data, recent research shows
that more and more European Member States are developing national Open Data Portals, and that
existing portals are being expanded with more sophisticated features6
. These national portals feed in
to the European Data Portal, which publishes the metadata of Public Sector Information available on
public data portals within European countries. At the same time, several regional and local portals in
the Member States feed into the national Open Data portals. Cities have an important role to play
here. Not only can they produce Open Data, for instance based on sensors placed on the streets in
the city, but they can also benefit from the re-use of Open Data to tackle urban challenges. Examples
of Open Data produced at city-level include data on crime rates, urban planning, pollution and traffic
density. For cities, Open Data can be an enabler on their journey towards becoming a smart city.
Cities are increasingly using ICT and data to solve urban challenges such as congestion and pollution,
to improve the quality of public services, to reduce costs and to improve the quality of life in general.
Open Data can contribute to these ambitions. The importance of Open Data at a regional and local
level was recognised by the European Committee of the Regions, stating that Open Data has the po-
tential to become valuable assets for citizens, businesses and public authorities7
. This report explores
how eight European cities are embracing Open Data to overcome contemporary urban challenges.
1.2 Method and selection
This report is the second report from the European Data Portal focusing on Open Data and Cities. The
first report published in 20168
highlighted eight large capital cities in Europe: Amsterdam, Barcelona,
Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Paris, Stockholm and Vienna. To better understand Open Data developments
in other types of cities, this report focuses on Open Data in medium-sized cities in Europe
that have been successful in using Open Data to solve specific city problems, to improve transparency
and to close the gap between local government and citizens. Eight cities were selected based on
the following criteria:
Inhabitants: cities with a population of 250,000 – 1,500,000 inhabitants were selected.
Geographical spread: cities from eight different countries across the European Union were
selected to ensure a solid geographic balance. Countries covered in the first Open Data and
Cities report were excluded from the selection.
Open Data Portal: cities with an Open Data portal were selected.
Lastly, EU Member State representatives could recommend a certain city within their country. This
approach resulted in the selection of eight cities (Figure 2).
Figure 2 Selection of cities featured in this report
To learn more about Open Data developments within selected cities, in-depth interviews were conducted
with representatives of the teams in charge of Open Data within the cities. These interviews
were conducted in February-March 2017. Input on developments on city-level was also gathered
through regular bilateral interactions with Member States. To add to the insights gathered through
the interviews and bilateral interactions, broader scoped desk research was conducted. To complement
the limited academic literature available on this topic, research also focused on sentiment
analysis and discussions conducted with the Open Data community during conferences and workshops.
City representatives interviewed were equally asked to validate the findings.
2 Open Data strategies
Having an Open Data strategy in place is one of the most important aspects of creating and sustaining
a successful Open Data portal. Before starting to publish any Open Data, it is important to have a
strategy in place that defines the goals and sets the ambition. Emphasising the importance of a legal
structure and defining standards for the publication of Open Data in this strategy contributes to the
availability and accessibility of data. By providing data holders with a standard licence, data providers
can include this licence in their metadata making sure it is recognised by both data providers and
data users. In June 2016, the EDP published a report on Open Data and Privacy9 which offers further
guidelines and recommendations that can help promote the utility of data while ensuring data controllers’
obligation to respect the right of data subjects to personal data protection. Further guidelines
on how to build a successful Open Data Strategy can be found in the EDP Guidelines for publishing
Open Data10 (figure below).
Figure 3 High-level overview of how to build an Open Data strategy
This section will further explore the existence of an Open Data strategy, the importance of national
coordination and the kind of approach adopted in the eight cities featured in this report.
2.1 Open Data strategy
All eight cities featured in this report have a specific Open Data strategy. They expect that an Open
Data initiative contributes to the quality of life in the city, that it makes citizens responsible for their
environment and that it brings citizens, communities and the local government closer together. Saving
money was a key objective of the Open Data strategy in two of the cities. When looking more
closely into the different city strategies, different cities seem to have different ideas on how to realise
For all cities investigated in this report, the most important aims are to drive efficiencies through
connected networks, connected infrastructure and a connected city and to increase transparency by
allowing open access to the city's data and statistics. In Dublin this is being realised via a national
Action Plan and a Public Service Open Data Strategy11. Specific guidelines, instructions and best practices
are provided in the Open Data Publication Handbook12 and the Open Data Ireland Best Practice
. Florence covers Open Data in its Digital Florence Manifesto - a benchmark of smart city
initiatives in which the main digital assets are to be shared and promoted in the city with other public
service providers as well as the Florence Smart City Plan (STEEP)14. The Openness Policy Gdansk15
focuses on sharing data collected by the city and the use of new technologies and promoting transparent
governance by the gradual release of new collections of public data.
Ghent aims to be a “City of People” – a city
in which smartness is defined by the wellbeing
of its citizens; which is also a top priority
in the Open Data Strategy of Helsinki16
The Ghent Digital City17 is one of the priorities18
of the city, adopting the principle of
digital inclusion. The Open Vilnius strategy19
is based on saving money, helping residents
adopt more sophisticated solutions, sharing
and help install the practice of municipal
institutions, municipalities or other institutions.
This is done through the Rules20 for the
Vilnius City Municipal Government to open
up data. Thessaloniki’s Digital Strategy21 aims
at strengthening the local economy by offering
more digital services. Furthermore, Thessaloniki
is a member of the 100 Resilient
cities22 and has a Resilient Thessaloniki strategy
which has a data-driven Thessaloniki as
one of its main pillars.
2.2 National coordination
National coordination is important for a successful Open Data strategy because the national level can
introduce national guidelines and common approaches to be used by other layers of public administration.
This does not only allow different systems to work more smoothly together, it can also help
smaller communities with fewer resources in their Open Data journey. National coordination is present
in seven out of eight cities investigated in this report.
Seven portals featured in this report are harvested by the respective national Open Data portal. The
Lithuanian Open Data portal is harvesting the GitHub portal of Vilnius. The national portal has its own
Open Data account in GitHub and can directly upload datasets. In June 2017, the national portal will
move to CKAN and will then be harvested by the European Data Portal. In Poland, the CKAN platform
is currently used by several Polish cities as well as the national Open Data portal and will facilitate
further data integration in the future. Thessaloniki is working with the Greek Open Source Society to
build interoperability standards to have more standardised datasets from local administrations. A
national framework exists in Greece, but the implementation is sometimes problematic. The introduction
of the Open by Default principle into Greek law in 2014 has helped further national coordination
efforts in further standardisation. City data is harvested by the national portal, but updates are
done manually by the city portal itself. In Ireland, regular meetings take place with the different
Open Data portals to see what the national government wants the local government to do next.
Also in Finland regular meetings take place between the national and city Open Data portals to discuss
potential issues and ways forward. The national portal harvests the metadata of the Helsinki
Info Region service on a daily basis. The Ghent Open Data Portal is harvested by the Flemish Open
Data Portal which is, since recently, harvested by the national Open Data Portal. Regular meetings
take place between different portals in Belgium which are chaired by the national Open Data Portal.
Figure 4 Elements of an Open Data policy
Although different cities in Flanders are active individually, the Flemish Open Data portal is responsible
for further regional coordination within Flanders.
The Italian national Open Data portal is working on a unique approach in data harvesting for geodata
and non-geodata (CKAN API). The presence of a consolidated European-level and national-level standard
for geodata (as defined by INSPIRE23 and RNDT24) is helping the adoption of a unique reference
for data modelling among the different Italian public administrations. The Portuguese Open Data
movement is still in the beginning phase which means that no formal partnerships with any city or
the national level have been established, however, informal meetings are taking place with both the
national level and cities such as Porto to enhance further cooperation and share experiences. Collaboration
with local public and private partners has resulted in 11 different entities sharing their
Open Data on the Lisbon Open Data portal. This number is expected to increase in 2017.
2.3 Top down and bottom up approach
When looking more closely at the approach taken in the cities featured in this report, most Open
Data strategies were initiated by the political leadership of the city and therefore used a more topdown
approach. Except for Ghent, the other seven cities received a strong commitment from their
political leaders from the beginning, evolving into a mixed approach once the basics were in place.
Where some cities have enjoyed working with Open Data for several years now, and understanding
better what data re-users need the most, a bottom-up approach is now used as well.
In Florence, the mayor wanted all public data to be opened, regardless of whether public officials
preferred data to remain closed. Thanks to the strong political commitment of the city to be smart25
the Open Data initiative evolved and today it includes bottom-up characteristics as well, involving the
local community more. In Lisbon, a city Open Data principals’ letter26 started the Open Data movement.
Now, with the support of the local government, the city Open Data portal is working with different
city partners such as city services, universities, companies and user communities.
The same situation can be seen in Dublin. At first, the strategy was developed by the national government
level and local government level which was then incorporated by local authorities who were
instructed what approach to take. The aim was to identify datasets that each local authority all over
the country had, and convert them to the same format and publish them. It started with budget data,
then fire stations data, police stations data, etc. They had to build up a repository for the whole format.
The local government Open Data project team and Dublinked would coordinate those meetings.
Now, the community is much involved as well. In Helsinki, the strong city policy on Open Data was
the driver behind Open Data in the city. Nowadays, the highly active Open Data community in
Finland ‘Open Knowledge Finland’ is working closely together with the public sector and has been a
strong partner in helping the Helsinki Region Infoshare move forward.
The Open Data movement in both Thessaloniki (due to its hierarchical decision making system) and
Gdansk started with the public administration. Thanks to the organisation of several workshops open
to the public, citizens and the community have become increasingly important for the further development
of Open Data usage in both cities. Vilnius did not have a strategy in the beginning. In 2015,
the mayor asked one of his software developers who assisted institutions with Open Data at times, to
have Open Data as a focus area. Since then, this has transitioned into a clear system and procurement.
Whereas in Ghent, the Open Data movement started with the university of Ghent and some
active students asking the mayor about Open Data. Together with the local community and Open
Knowledge Belgium, the hackathon 'Apps for Ghent' was created in 2011.
In order to be successful in Open Data at the city level, all eight cities featured in this report have
built an Open Data strategy. Some portals are in a more advanced phase than others, meaning they
have been able to show that their strategy works and that the cities have become more transparent,
more efficient in how they are run and in providing services to their citizens. Having a good national
coordination is an important aspect in this regard because it helps a smoother interoperability of
different systems. In addition, by sharing best practices and experiences portals can more easily
overcome certain barriers. In the beginning stages, strong political leadership is important to get
Open Data started and provide guidance (figure below). Once the portal has been created and more
citizens in the city have started using Open Data, community led initiatives appear to become a
strong driver in moving the Open Data movement forward.
Figure 5 Top-down versus bottom-up approaches
3 Open Data portals at city level
To ensure data is easy to find, access and download, data portals require a number of features to be
set up, but it is equally important to be clear about where certain data can be found. Do the cities
have all the Open Data available on one portal? Section 3.1 zooms in on the portal structure. Section
3.2 presents some of the features available on the eight Open Data portals, and section 3.3 describes
some further portal characteristics.
3.1 Portal structure
When looking at the online presence of cities, a variety of websites and portals is found in the eight
cities. In addition to an Open Data portal, cities tend to have several more web portals. on top of
more general city websites (e.g. for citizen services or tourist information), the eight cities investigated
have smart city portals, Open Data portals for publishing geospatial data, and specific Open
Data portals. In Helsinki for instance, the Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) portal27 publishes all Open
Data from the city of Helsinki, including geospatial data. HRI co-partners with some other portals of
the city of Helsinki, such as the portal for developers28 and the portal29 outlining the digital Helsinki
programme. Despite the multitude of online presences related to different digital themes, which is
also the case for the other cities under consideration, all cities have a dedicated Open Data portal in
These Open Data city portals are important players in the national Open Data publication chain, as
almost all city portals (except for Lisboa Aberta30) feed into their respective national Open Data portals.
This process is most often automated, although in Vilnius the harvesting is done manually. In
turn, the national portals feed into the European Data Portal. This process is outlined in Figure 6.
Figure 6 The role of cities in the data publication process
This process is not always straightforward. Cities may have to deal with several administrative layers,
e.g. the municipality, the metropolitan area and the province. This is for instance the case in Florence,
where the portal of the metropolitan area31 and the city of Florence co-exist. Moreover, the
city portal not only feeds into the national portal, but also to the provincial portal of Tuscany32
The sharing of Open Data between these various stakeholders in the data publication process is facilitated
by the use of a common vocabulary. This makes the process more efficient and better un-
derstandable for all actors involved. The DCAT Application Profile (DCAT-AP)33 is the common metadata
standard for describing public sector datasets in Europe. From this perspective it is promising
that, among others, cities like Dublin, Florence, Lisbon and Ghent have adopted this standard.
An interesting development is that cities are developing digital dashboards on which they combine
and showcase both Open Data achievements, Smart City initiatives and information about digital
public services. Among the eight cities investigated, examples of cities where such dashboards are
found are Dublin34, Lisbon35, Vilnius36 and Helsinki37. These dashboards function as a central hub,
from which users are being redirected to different digital topics and/or other portals (Figure 7).
These dashboards also showcase Open Data use cases and Smart City pilots. References to Open
Data portals are usually provided. These visualisations provide more context to the data, and help
citizens understand what Open Data is about and what the benefits are. These benefits are more
easily understood by using dashboards then by providing the raw data itself. Thessaloniki is currently
in the process of developing such a dashboard, with the aim of fostering open government by visualising
Figure 7 The city dashboards of Helsinki, Vilnius and Lisbon
Some of the cities investigated have integrated geospatial datasets in their Open Data portals (Florence,
Ghent, Lisbon, Helsinki, Dublin), while others (Vilnius and Thessaloniki) have a separate portal
specifically for geospatial data. Thessaloniki mentioned to further develop their portal in 2017, and
also foresees the integration with their GIS platform to make geospatial data available on their city
portal. The advantage of integrating geospatial data in the city portal is that it offers visitors a single
point of access to all city data.
3.2 Portal features
The portals investigated by this study differ in terms of datasets available (see section 3.3) and features
included in the portal. It varies from basic portals providing only the data, a brief news section,
a FAQ section and contact details to more advanced portals offering an API, featured datasets, extensive
feedback opportunities, social media details and highlighted Open Data use cases.
Currently, all eight cities analysed offer an Application Programming Interface (API) to access their
data – although the Gdansk portal is only partially API accessible. An API allows other tools, such as
machines, to access the data on the portal. It allows for instance another portal (regional, national or
even the European Data Portal) to harvest the datasets automatically from a given portal and offers
links back to the datasets on the original portal. Having an API eases the re-use of data from the portal.
Six38 out of the eight portals have a news section available on their Open Data portal. Such a feature
not only helps drive traffic to the portal, it also raises awareness about the benefits of Open Data and
shows what can be done with particular datasets. It also stimulates unique visitors to become return-
ing visitors, resulting in more engagement with users. The same accounts for promoting Open Datarelated
events and for publishing use cases on Open Data portals. Use cases are practical examples of
how Open Data is being re-used (Figure 8).
Figure 8 The new Open Data portal of Ghent (launched March 2017) and the use cases gallery on the HRI portal39
Feedback from users contributes to the usability of data portals. A best practice in this regard comes
from Dublin, which offers extensive feedback opportunities. Users can not only share their data or
request particular data, they can also send questions by submitting a form or interact with the team
managing the portal via social media or by using the general contact details (Figure 9). Gdansk can be
considered as a best practice with regards to openness about the team managing the portal: all their
names and responsibilities are provided on the portal.
Figure 9 Feedback functionalities on Dublinked.ie
3.3 Portal data
When assessing the number of datasets offered on each Open Data portal, substantial differences
exist between the portals. The portal of Florence offers by far the most datasets (1,392), while the
portal of Gdansk offers 28 datasets40. All of the portals assessed have organised their data around
certain data categories, ranging from five categories in Vilnius (Finance, Transport, Education, Democracy,
Processes) to 19 data categories in Florence.
Florence: http://opendata.comune.fi.it/ - 1,399 datasets
Helsinki: http://www.hri.fi/en/ - 603 datasets
Ghent: https://data.stad.gent/ - 579 datasets
Lisbon: http://dados.cm-lisboa.pt/ - 366 datasets
Dublin: https://data.dublinked.ie/dataset - 251 datasets
Thessaloniki: http://opendata.thessaloniki.gr/ - 74 datasets
Vilnius: http://atviras.vilnius.lt/ - 56 datasets
Gdansk: http://otwartygdansk.pl/open-data/ - 28 datasets
Overall, cities have not yet identified priority domains based on specific assessments, nor do they
base the release of particular datasets on the needs of the user. By defining priority domains based
on user needs, data publishers could dedicate specific resources to improve the quantity and quality
of these domains. But there are exceptions. Ghent for instance, has a particular focus on real-time
data. As a result of users demanding recent and real-time data, Ghent is now the first city in Belgium
offering 12 real-time datasets in the Transport & Mobility domain. Based on portal statistics most
cities do have insights in the most popular domains (Figure 10). In Dublin for instance, the most
popular datasets are visualised on Dublindashboard.ie. Helsinki and Florence indicate that geodata is
the most used data domain. On the contrary, Lisbon does not know who is using their data and which
data is most needed.
Figure 10 Most popular datasets Florence
Not all cities have applied a clear Open Licence to the Open Data they are providing41. This hampers
the re-use of the data, as it may lead to uncertainties on the side of the re-user on whether the data
considered is free to access, use, modify and share. Only data which is shared with an Open Licence
becomes Open Data. Thessaloniki for instance uses the Open Data Commons Open Database License
Figure 11 Regions & Cities data is often combined with three other data domains - findings from EDP re-use report 201743
4 Barriers encountered by the cities
A recent EDP report on Open Data and Barriers44 shows that although the majority of the EU28+
countries has successfully developed a basic approach to address Open Data, they are at the same
time struggling with several barriers, hindering them to move forward with Open Data. This means
that a part of the economic value that lies within Open Data remains locked. This section explores
which barriers apply at a city-level: do the challenges on a national level equally apply to the citylevel,
and are there specific challenges cities are facing regarding Open Data?
Barriers faced by portal owners on a city level are very much in line with the barriers faced at a national
level (Figure 12). But when zooming in on the barriers that apply at a city-level, it appears that
some barriers are more persistent than others across the cities investigated. A major challenge appears
to be the technical part of publishing Open Data, mentioned by six cities. A big concern is the
quality of data and the automation associated with uploading and updating datasets. One city mentioned
that the legacy of systems results in not being able to automate data publishing and not being
ready to export data in open formats. Poor data quality is also related to the lack of skills of the people
working in the departments (e.g. local municipalities) where the data is produced. This results in
data not being complete, not being correct or not being updated on time. This is very often still a
manual process, just as the maintenance of data.
Figure 12 Barriers for portal owners
Cities suffer from a lack of awareness on the benefits of Open Data: they find it difficult to convince
data holders to release their data. As an ‘Open by default’ approach is not yet common in the cities
investigated, data holders need to be convinced about the added value of releasing their data. But
also on the side of the data user, the awareness about the value of Open Data needs to be improved.
The city of Florence has adopted a bottom-up approach to improve awareness: “a cultural revolution
is needed. Citizens generally don’t know what Open Data is, nor do IT companies. We need to work on
this. That is why we started working with schools, talking to high school students and start-ups to
educate them on Open Data”. Legal aspects constitute a barrier for five cities. More specifically, they
perceive the fear of data protection issues as a barrier in publishing data.
Organisational barriers play a role in four of the cities under consideration. Not only is capacity in
terms of human resources sometimes an issue, but also a lack of synergies, interoperability between
departments and streamlined data management plays a role. It is not always where and how which
data is produced or stored. Different kinds of government agencies exist next to each other, on regional,
municipal or city level. In Florence for instance, the data that is most needed does not come
from the municipality. Pharmacy data is often requested, but it remains difficult to obtain the data,
let alone in a structured format. Another high-value dataset in Florence is real-time street cleaning
times, where datasets produced by the external authority are not available in machine-readable format.
It is ongoing work with the waste management utility to improve the quality and to align datasets
and cartographies, and with the Pharmacies Authority to improve the availability and quality of
Although some cities face financial barriers to open up data, this is not the case for all cities. Florence
for instance indicates that money is not an issue, because cities can apply for a broad range of national
and European funding. In Dublin money was not an issue either, as in Ireland there is a specific
Open Data unit within the national Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which engages
with Open Data projects all over Ireland: the Local Government Open Data project theme. They roll
out Open Data initiatives over local authorities in Ireland, also providing them with financial resources.
5 Awareness and citizen engagement within cities
The previous chapter highlighted that a lack of awareness is still one of the barriers faced by portal
owners. A lack of awareness plays a part on both the side of the data publisher and the data user, as
data publishers are not always aware of the relevance and potential of Open Data, and users are not
always aware of the Open Data available. This section highlights what cities are doing to boost the
knowledge of the benefits and availability of Open Data, primarily on the users’ side. Section 3.2 already
underlined that six out of the eight portals have a news section to engage with users and to
5.1 Strategy to reach citizens
The eight cities all recognise the importance of involving citizens for a successful Open Data initiative,
with the purpose of making them more aware of the benefits and potential applications of Open
Data. Most cities do not have a specific documented strategy only for involving citizens, but have
integrated the aim of raising awareness and involving citizens in a broader digital strategy. For instance,
Thessaloniki’s Digital Strategy commits to provide four courses a year, free of charge, to educate
citizens on general eSkills, and more specifically on Open Government and Open Data. This
should improve the skills and capacity of citizens to use Open Data.
The initiatives to reach citizens are often centred around the practical application of Open Data, providing
tangible examples of what can be done with the cities’ data. Recurring events such as the Data
Dive Ghent and Helsinki Loves Developers are open meet-ups, facilitating the dialogue and cooperation
between publishers and re-users of Open Data. Portals also seek collaboration with universities,
for the organisation of events, to educate the students on the topic of Open Data and to gather
feedback on the portal. This is seen in Dublin, Ghent, Florence, Lisbon and Helsinki. Another way of
reaching citizens is the use of social media, which is not often mentioned by the cities. The city of
Helsinki however makes extensive use of social media, especially when new data is released.
The city of Dublin deserves special attention with regards to involving citizens, as they participate in
the project ‘Route to PA45’, which is a European project focused on citizen engagement around Open
Data. Furthermore, the bottom-up approach of the city (see section 2.3) is built into the Dublinked
site. The portal allows people to request datasets and to suggest new data, and it also offers visualisation
tools to contextualise the data, making the re-use of Open Data tangible. Visualisations help
understand what Open Data is about and what its benefits are. According to the Dublinked portal
owner, citizens appreciate the dashboards created with Open Data rather than the Open Data itself.
Dublin’s strategy to reach citizens seems to be successful when looking at the user statistics on the
portal. The portal receives around 1300 visitors each month, with a peak of over 1500 visitors in
March 2017. Further statistics provide user information on total number of datasets, most popular
resources (all time and in last 30 days), top key words, publication of new datasets, website & usage
metrics and compliance with the data.gov.ie technical framework. The Florence Open Data Portal
provides slightly different statistics. This portal provides further information on how many datasets
per theme are updated automatically, which datasets have been most downloaded per month, accesses
from which countries and how many datasets per format have been published each month.
The remaining six portals do not yet specify specific user statistics.
Figure 13 Visualisations on Dublinked
An important element of the cities’ strategies to reach citizens is the organisation of events. The following
section describes the kind of events being organised by the cities.
All eight cities organise events or are involved as a partner in Open Data events, like hackathons and
meet-ups, to stimulate awareness on the users’ end. These events differ in scale and reach, ranging
from city-specific hackathons making use of city data such as Apps for Ghent and HackaccessDublin
to national events held in the particular city. Crowdsourcing ideas, as being done in for instance Lisbon
(‘Open Data Crowdsourcing Day’) and Thessaloniki (launch of three crowd sourcing competitions)
is also a popular way of driving user engagement. Specifically the local events help to engage
with users and to gather feedback on the data provided. The cities of Dublin, Florence, Helsinki and
Lisbon are also organising specific events (e.g. workshops) to drive awareness among all tiers of the
data publication chain. Lastly, Thessaloniki ran an online public consultation to find out how they
could make the portal more user-friendly.
The different methods deployed by the cities to reach – or to engage with - citizens to raise awareness
on the topic of Open Data are summarised in Figure 14.
Figure 14 Methods to reach citizens as deployed by the eight cities
6 Impact of Open Data
Measuring the impact of Open Data is important because it shows in which areas, be they political,
economic or social, the benefits of a city’s Open Data policy are most significant. But how can this
impact be measured? This section provides examples of the impact Open Data has on cities and how
it can be measured. It also showcases city-level success stories.
6.1 How to measure impact?
The social impact can be measured by looking at aspects such as environmental sustainability, the
inclusion of marginalised groups in policymaking and accessing governmental services. For example,
Florence is working together with Bloomberg and the Johns Hopkins University from Baltimore to
measure the impact and results of the city’s Open Data approach. They intend to set up specific KPIs
for citizens and businesses. Via surveys they can find out how useful Open Data is for different types
of citizens, such as students. Ghent is not specifically measuring impact, but thanks to the small size
of the city the Open Data team has a good relationship with the local data ecosystem and is always
informed when Open Data is used to build applications, allowing them to get more qualitative insights
in the impact. An example is ‘Gentse Feesten’
46, a festival which attracts half a million visitors
each year. Every year, several open source applications are developed showing the programme and
other activities which can be downloaded free of charge. While an app in Vilnius - Tvarkau Vilnių47
allows citizens to submit problems they see around the city, which are then displayed on a public
map and passed to appropriate institutions.
Figure 15 Gentse Feesten app in Ghent and Tvarkau Vilnių in Vilnius
The economic impact of Open Data can be measured by an increased market size, job creation, cost
savings and efficiency gains48
. In Vilnius, thanks to using GPS for snow ploughs and publishing that
data publicly, this led to the revelation that the municipal entity in charge of cleaning the streets was
involved in mismanagement. New management was installed which led to a decrease of costs by 30%
and an increase in work output by 20% which amounts to about a 50% more efficient use of money
and resources. The use of Open Data had been a significant contributor to finding the problem.
The political impact of Open Data can be measured by assessing increased government efficiency and
effectiveness or increased administrative responsibility and accountability. It can also be determined
by measuring the improved infrastructure and quality of the data that different levels of government
hold and produce, resulting in better and more reliable Open Data being offered both to users beyond
government and for consumption within government. For example, in Gdansk Open Data has a
positive impact on solving different city challenges. Opening data on how tax payers’ money is spent
by the local government increases government transparency, and gives citizens the feeling they have
a better understanding of how the city budget is spent. Opening data has improved and continues to
improve the connection between technology and civil society which can lead to stronger democracy.
Helsinki has adopted the same approach as Gdansk. The city has become more transparent thanks to
the release of important data such as public city decision-making data (Open Ahjo API49). The city has
also published many public data regarding Helsinki’s economy and purchasing data, which shows
citizens how public money is used and which companies are providing paid services to the city.
However, despite these examples, measuring the exact impact of Open Data on city life appears to
be difficult for most cities investigated in this report; a situation also noticed at the national level.
Once solutions (e.g. applications) are being developed that are making life easier in the city, by saving
time or money, whether at the individual level or local government level, it can generally be said that
a certain level of impact is apparent. Involving students and universities in building applications to
potentially solve existing issues of a city, appears to accelerate the level of Open Data usage and
thereby the level of innovation needed to be or become a smart city. The next section will dive
deeper into the different types of successful applications built in the different cities and how citizens
can make use of them.
6.2 Success stories
When zooming in on specific success stories across the eight European cities investigated, a wide
variety of Open Data based applications impacting city life becomes visible. Success stories are often
related to the transport sector, offering real-time transport data used by many in the city on a daily
basis. In Dublin, applications are available showing where to park your car in the city centre (Park
Ya50) or where parking spaces are available (Dublin busy app51), applications showing bike routes
(Dublin bike scheme52), or applications reporting different types of footpaths that are broken (Fix
your street53) which is important for people who are visually impaired or use a wheelchair. In Vilnius
and Helsinki applications have been built for citizens to check when streets will be cleaned after
heavy snowfall and providing the exact location of the snow ploughs while in Ghent the application
Ojoo54 organises city walks based on linked data provided by the Ghent Open Data portal.
Many applications are also based around a specific challenge the city is faced with. In the south of
Europe, different applications are built around the warm weather. In Florence, an application was
built that maps public places where citizens or tourists can refresh during warm days. Another app in
Florence was created to map different sounds and light in the city to describe the specific characteristics
of a space along with the social and emotional aspects linked to daily life55
. A specific application
is available that lists all Open Data applications in Florence56
Figure 16 City of Florence app
In Gdansk, the application On4Legs57
- generated through the cooperation of its Open Data team and
the local civil tech community – connects the city shelter with future pet owners. Thanks to this cooperation,
the shelter improved its IT resources and was able to provide data for the open source
application. In Vilnius, one of the first datasets that were published were about public procurement.
Journalists analysed the data to help solve corruption problems related to small time public procurement
whereas another company uses Open Data to calculate the liveability score of different
cities. The Open Data Portal of Helsinki dedicates a special section to Open Data applications58
(shown in figure 8) which range from finding the best housing price for the urban family with children
to reserving public facilities and equipment for your own use. Whereas the Dublin Dashboard59
showcases specific applications available in Dublin.
One of the most successful applications in Ghent is Postbuzz60 which uses city data to map daily news
items in Ghent. The aim is to provide personalised and geographically tagged tailored news to individuals.
More specifically, in Lisbon applications are built based on data on the electrical network of
the city which is available on the Lisbon Open Data portal. This application (although open for internal
government use only) has already led to the successful prevention of several accidents when
digging large construction holes in public spaces and with planning public interventions.
More generally, cities experience the very existence of Open Data a success. By the end of 2017, all
data in Lisbon will be open by default in accordance with the approved Open Data City Plan 2017. In
Florence, people generally do not ask for specific datasets anymore, they will directly find their way
to the datasets they were looking for on the city Open Data portal. While in Thessaloniki, the municipal
administration is convinced that Thessaloniki needs to develop into a data-driven organisation
and become a data-based city. Thousands of citizens are engaged and provide the Open Data city
portal with data through the “Improve my City61” platform.
Figure 17 Improve My City platform of Thessaloniki
Yet it does not stop here. All cities investigated are actively working on providing more data that
could solve current issues or could make city life easier. For example, next challenges in Dublin will
be showing facilities in one's vicinity, such as swimming pools or playgrounds. In addition, Dublin is
actively working together with small businesses and start-ups to tackle challenges in the city, such as
illegal dumping. Dublinked provides them with data – which is often targeted to a particular competition
- and they develop solutions for the identified city's problems. For all cities the same principle is
true: the more Open Data is provided, the more the community can create new insights making the
7 Future outlook
Despite the restrictions in terms of human resources and financial resources, all cities will expand or
improve their existing Open Data initiative in the near future. They emphasised to continue working
on making more data available and to improve the quality of available datasets. Ghent for instance
will be working on quality labels and service level agreements for real-time data. Florence will be
working on the standardisation of public road works data originating from different companies and
the municipality, to reduce errors and improve data quality. The cities are also focusing on releasing
real-time Open Data, specifically the cities of Dublin, Ghent and Florence, and primarily in the field of
transport and mobility. The re-use of real-time transport and mobility data allows cities to address
problems ranging from heavy traffic to natural disaster emergency response, almost instantaneously.
In smart transit applications, smart sensors, in combination with Open Data exchanges, provide constant
streams of real-time information which the system interprets and then issues predefined responses.
Dublin for instance is focusing on making real-time passenger information (RTPI) available, whereas
Florence promotes and improves real-time data coming from smart Internet of Things (IoT) systems
thanks to their participation in the EU Horizon2020 Smart Cities and Communities Lighthouse project.
Ghent already offers real-time data, for instance the number of vehicles on the ring road, the
availability of bikes at bike sharing stations and free parking spaces, and it plans to expand the number
of real-time datasets. Ghent is also investing in Linked Open Data, with data being available in
RDF format and linking their data to Open Data available at regional or national level.
Open Data initiatives in the eight cities are often part of or linked to broader digital or smart city
strategies (Figure 18). Cities continue to invest in IoT technologies. Thessaloniki for instance will have
smart lamp posts equipped with sensors in order to provide data on environmental conditions and
traffic. Also Dublin, Florence, Ghent and Helsinki are actively linking their Open Data initiative to
broader smart city objectives. Dublin for instance wants to better leverage the synergies between
ongoing smart city projects and the Open Data initiative.
Figure 18 The link between Open Data strategies and broader Digital – or Smart City - strategies
To further improve availability and quality of Open Data or to enrich their respective portals, cities
are seeking partnerships with other cities or stakeholders in the Open Data ecosystem. Helsinki is
already actively involved in the Finnish Six City Strategy (6Aika) project which has a specific Open
Data agenda, and wants to strengthen the role of the city as a platform for new solutions in cooperation
with businesses and other partners. Florence is involved in the ‘Bloomberg What Works
Cities partnership62’ to share best practices on the topic of Open Data, and also Thessaloniki and Vilnius
are involved in Open Data partnerships. Vilnius will sign a memorandum of understanding this
year with six other cities, to share knowledge in the area of IT, Open Data and data analytics. Ghent
aims at intensifying cooperation following the ‘Quadruple Helix63’ model for open innovation, to provide
decentralised data management (crowdsourcing, distributed ownership).
Finally, Lisbon will establish partnerships primarily for the enrichment of their portal. It wants to improve
the portal back office and interface and introduce new features. In the same light, the city of
Florence expects to launch a new Open Data portal in 2017.
Figure 19 Quadruple Helix Model in Ghent
Lisbon, Helsinki and Gdansk have clear plans to improve user engagement. This is important, as recent
research on the re-use of Open Data indicates there is still a gap between the data that users
need and the data provided by publishers. Lisbon is working on the creation of a Data Lab to promote
and optimise the available data, and is initiating ‘Lisboa Aberta Certified’: a certification scheme for
apps developed with Open Data from their portal. Gdansk wishes to cooperate more with the endusers,
such as developers. Organising events such as ‘Code for Poland’ in Gdansk allows the city to
engage with the user community. Helsinki plans to encourage communities to use the city's data, and
to organise regular meet-ups to enhance the understanding of data. Through these events they want
to explain the purpose of Open Data and understand the needs and challenges of potential users.
This should better align their data provision strategy with the needs of users, resulting in more data
being re-used and making the city a smarter place.
Finally, cities foresee activities to improve awareness and to improve their internal Open Data skills.
Thessaloniki aims to educate and inform municipality employees about Open Data and Open Government,
and Dublin will host workshops to provide public administrations with basic data skills.
Florence will organise learning sessions for civil servants to promote the usage of the portal in their
everyday work through the use of QGIS64. These are important developments, as the report on Open
Data barriers recently indicated that a lack of skills constitutes a barrier for the further uptake of
Open Data, especially among lower tiers of government65
European cities are embracing Open Data and are well underway in their Open Data journey. The
eight cities investigated in this report have Open Data portals in place backed by Open Data policies,
but their Open Data maturity differs. What lessons can be learned from these examples to further
advance with Open Data on a city-level?
Embed your Open Data initiative in a broader Smart City strategy to fully exploit the synergies
between Open Data and Smart city objectives and to reap the benefits of developments
Given the limited amount of resources available in many cities, focus on making available or
improving the quality of high value data on a city level – e.g. real-time data in transport and
Overcome the barrier of a lack of skills or resources by seeking partnerships with other cities;
Show the practical use of Open Data and make it tangible, e.g. through visualisations on a
city dashboard, to boost awareness and to engage with re-users;
Organise or become involved in events aimed at engaging with the user community, e.g.
regular open meet-ups, thematic hackathons specifically based on city data, etc.;
Build strong commitment from the top (top-down approach) to accelerate your Open Data
Coordinate at a national level, as done in Ireland through a specific project group tasked with
assisting local and regional authorities on the topic of Open Data, to overcome organisational,
technical, financial and capacity barriers.
Annex I – City fact sheets
European Commission (2017), Building a European Data Economy
European Data Portal (2015), Creating value through Open Data
European Data Portal (2016), Open Data Maturity in Europe 2016
5 MEPSIR (2006), p. 46 and European Commission, 2013, elements of a data value chain
European Data Portal (2016), Open Data Maturity in Europe 2016
Official Journal of the European Union (2012), Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘Review of the
Directive on reuse of public sector information and open data’
European Data Portal (2016), Open Data and Cities
European Data Portal (2016), How to address privacy concerns when opening data
10 European Data Portal (2016), Open Data Goldbook
11 Foundation Document for the development of the Public Service Open Data Strategy
12 Open Data Publication Handbook
13 Open Data Ireland Best Practise Handbook
14 Integrated planning, PA efficiency, energy efficiency, ICT, mobility, prosperity, liveability, communications
15 City of Gdansk manifesto of openness
16 City of Helsinki Strategy Programme 2013-2016
17 Ghent Council agreements 2013-2018
18 Items in this strategy are Open Data, Smart city, ICT, Living lab, etc.
19 Open Vilnius strategy
20 Vilnius Rules
21 Cities as digital platforms – Challenges and opportunities in the Municipality of Thessaloniki
22 Thessaloniki’s Resilience Challenge
23 INSPIRE Directive
25 Smart Florence Plan, September 2015
26 Letter of Principles, Lisbon
27 Helsinki Region Infoshare
28 Helsinki Loves Developers
29 Digital Helsinki portal
30 Lisbon Open Data Portal
31 Metropolitan city Florence
32 Tuscany Open Data Portal
34 Dublin Dashboard
35 Smart Open Lisbon
36 Vilnius Open Data Portal
37 Digital Helsinki portal
38 Dublin, Florence, Gdansk, Ghent, Florence, Helsinki
39 Helsinki Region Infoshare Applications
40 Reference date: 23 March 2017
41 These cities have an Open Licence in place: Dublin, Florence, Helsinki, Lisbon, Thessaloniki
42 Open Data Commons Open Database License
43 EDP re-use report
44 European Data Portal (2017), Barriers in working with Open Data
45 Route to PA
46 Gentse Feesten application 2016
47 Tvarkau Vilnių
48 European Data Portal (2015), Creating Value through Open Data
49 Open Ahjo API
51 Is Dublin busy?
52 Dublin Bikes
53 Fix your street
55 Firenze Sound Map
56 Open Data applications available in Florence
57 On4Legs (Na4Łapy)
58 Helsinki InfoShare applications
59 Dublin Dashboard
61 Improve my city
62 Bloomberg What Works Cities partnership
63 In a Quadruple Helix Model, government, industry, academia and civil participants work together to cocreate
65 European Data Portal (2017), Barriers in working with Open Data