Helsinki: open data for the benefit of anyone

Helsinki open data

The city of Helsinki releases all of its data as open data for anyone to use. What is special? Open data is more than public data. Open data is public data which has been been released for anyone to use freely as machine-readable, structured format, with open license and free of charge.

The city government has already released hundreds of public data sets via Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) service. Data which is constantly collected all around the city. Think of data about the urban environment, the use of public services, traffic noise levels, population projections etcetera.

Helsinki wants to make this data available to people, other than civil servants. They are making it freely available to the public, for everyone to use. Entrepreneurs, application developers, residents, journalists etc. Open data makes the government more transparent and promotes democracy. And it enables the creation of new services that make life easier for the citizens of Helsinki. Services like:

  • Smartphone applications with info about public transport
  • Borrowing books from the library
  • Digital payment of parking fees
  • Follow municipal decision making processes.

Open data is not the same as public data

As said, open data is often confused with public data. But open data has some specific principles. To be open, data must be:

  • Public, the city takes care of privacy concerns
  • It must be made available in a machine readable structured format
  • It must be open licensed by the data owner
  • Free of charge

In Helsinki, HRI also supports people in the utilization of open data. It gathers feedback and data requests from open data users and communicates about it with the data owners.

Helsinki citizens can check out many use cases on HRI app gallery. The most downloaded open data sets in Helsinki Region are the City of Helsinki procurement data, historical aerial photos and postal code areas. One of the most successful innovation based on open data is a smartphone app Blindsquare which helps blind people to navigate in urban environment.

Data comes from Internet of Things as well as crowdsourcing

Open data thrives by an open dialogue between government and citizens. There are many ongoing ventures by the city of Helsinki and other organizations to explore new ways of collecting data, especially using distributed or moving sensing technology (ie. IoT) as well as utilizing regular people as data collectors (i.e. crowdsourcing). Have a look in what kind of interesting experiments this can lead to.

Of course Helsinki is not the only city making open data available. More specific examples can be found in this article, showing 40 open data projects that are redefining smart cities.

*) Photo: Netwalkerz_net (cc)



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