The city of Lahti decided to open up their data for public use. The biggest challenge was to identify the datasets that will encourage the local community to use the city data to develop new business ideas. This article presents suggestions of which datasets the city of Lahti should make publicly available. Also presented are the most efficient means of defining and modifying said datasets.
Authors: Lenka Zatkova and Sariseelia Sore
Data is the basic element of human knowledge. The value of data is in its potential to generate information, understanding and wisdom. (Kitchin 2014, 12.) The knowledge becomes open if anybody can access, use, modify or share it (Open Knowledge International 2017b). Data is considered to be open when it is available under an open licence, which gives permission to republish the data, sell products or services based on the data and to create new content using the data free of charge (Open Data Institute 2017).
The main idea of opening public data is to increase its value by its usage. Open public data enhances transparency, citizen participation, collaboration and innovations. (Chignard 2013.)
Municipal Open Data and Entrepreneurs
Opening up municipal data for commercial use promotes local entrepreneurship. The objective of cities is to open up as many municipal datasets as possible. The decision about which datasets should be opened depends on their potential value for local entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs use the data mostly for app development or providing online, analytical, consultancy or training services. (Halonen 2012, 86 -87.)
A demand-based approach is the best to identify the entrepreneurs’ needs for open data (Conradie & Choenni 2014, 14). First, the owner of the data informs what data can be published and after that, the utilisers of the data come up with ideas about its practical applications (Conradie & Choenni 2014, 14; Moneo 2016).
Identification of Needs for Municipal Open Data in Lahti Region
During the research process there were three different approaches used to identify the needs for municipal open data in Lahti Region (Zatkova 2017). First, the companies were asked in a survey about their needs for municipal open data. Considering the early phase of the project, their answers had to be interpreted within the context of their awareness of open data. Keeping in mind that the awareness of open data could turn out to be low, another two approaches were deemed necessary. Firstly, the analysis of the experiences of other Finnish cities who have already opened some datasets. Secondly, the evaluation of recent trends in the business ideas of local start-ups using municipal open data.
A sample of 40 companies providing products or services in the Lahti area revealed their preferences in a survey. They could choose the datasets from a list, as well as suggest their own datasets. The outcomes of the survey are presented below.
The awareness of open data varied greatly among the companies in the sample. Only 25 % claimed to understand the concept and besides knew how they could use the municipal data if opened. The requirements of this group were considered the most relevant as they base on existing needs.
Familiarity of the open data concept by rest of the companies turned out low. Those companies didn’t come up with any business ideas exploiting municipal open data either, but they showed preliminary interest in some datasets. However, the relevancy of such interest is considered limited for purposes of decision-making by the city.
Datasets Desired by Companies with Existing Business Ideas
The most desired datasets by the companies with existing business ideas are closely related to buildings, construction and housing. The exact number of companies per category is shown in figure 1.
Figure 1. Municipal datasets desired by the companies with existing business ideas (Zatkova 2017)
The companies also came up with their own ideas of datasets that would support their business ideas. They suggested that the city should publish the energy savings targets for construction projects, and the energy strategy of the city of Lahti.
The field of energy savings appeared repeatedly also in business ideas among the start-ups that have been established in Lahti area in last four years (Business Development Manager 2017).
Datasets Desired by Companies without Existing Business Ideas
The companies without business ideas related to municipal data assume that access to city data could enhance development of their businesses. Their business areas influence their preferences. The most desired datasets by these companies are shown in figure 2.
Figure 2. The most desired municipal datasets by the companies without a business idea (Zatkova 2017)
The datasets are mostly general and usable by any kind of company, for example, business listings, population data or public bodies’ decisions. Besides these categories, the companies require datasets related to buildings, construction and housing.
The companies suggested also publishing data regarding the repair and construction of public buildings, annual plans and the budgets of the technical board and traffic in the city centre (including pedestrians).
Experiences in other cities reveal municipal datasets that are frequently used by other parties. There is a big chance that the same datasets could work also for the city of Lahti. The most relevant datasets include public transportation, traffic, parking information, geospatial data, city services and events. (Development Manager 2017)
The Importance of Cooperation
Experiences in other cities in Finland confirm that the city has to initialize the discussion on open city data, show a real commitment and be responsive towards citizens. Demand for datasets has to be developed in communication with companies, researchers, students and developers. The best way to do it is to take an iterative and cooperative approach supported by, for example, meetups, hackathons and competitions. The city should also be engaged in existing communities in social media. (Development Manager 2017). The involvement of the regional development organisation Ladec is indispensable in all these activities.
Figure 3. Opening up municipal datasets in cooperation with local community (Zatkova 2017)
Figure 3 illustrates recommended stages of the process of opening municipal datasets. The process is iterative. After a dataset is published, it must be regularly updated and, if required, modified. (Development Manager 2017)
The decision about the municipal datasets to be opened has to be based on real needs. The initial phase of the municipal data opening project in city of Lahti can be supported by the data collected from local companies in spring 2017. Communication with other cities experienced in the open data issues, would also be very valuable. However, constant cooperation with local community seems to be the most essential part in specifying municipal open datasets. It is also a necessity, after the data has been opened, to regularly in close cooperation with the open data utilizers to discuss requirements for updates and modification of the open datasets.
Business Development Manager. 2017. Ladec Oy. Interview 22 February 2017.
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Zatkova, L. 2017. Municipal Open Data and Regional Development. Identification of Open Datasets of City of Lahti. [Online document]. Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti. [Cited 2 June 2017]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2017052910900
Lenka Zatkova has studied Business Information Technology at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and will graduate and receive a BBA degree in June 2017.
Sariseelia Sore works as a Senior Lecturer in Business Information Technology Degree Programme at Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management.