In 2010, the cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area began sharing public data for anyone to use freely. These open datasets, available through a web platform (www.hri.fi), make it possible for citizens to develop applications and follow public decision making.
Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) is about making public data available for citizens to access, use and transform into creative new mobile applications. An initiative of the Helsinki metropolitan area, HRI is a portal for public information from Helsinki and its surrounding municipalities (Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen). It began with a pilot project, which saw information such as statistics, financial data, public transport and service maps go public. From 2013 onwards, the wealth of data available to citizens and developers is expected to include historical maps and aerial photos and health and wellbeing data, to name a few. The availability of such data has prompted citizens to create apps such as ‘Blindsquare’ which helps blind people negotiate their way around the city, and ‘Recycling in Finland’ where users can identify the closest recycling point for a particular product anywhere in Finland.
Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/Citiesinaction_TheHague_neighbourhoodsustainability.pdf
This project was shortlisted for the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2013 in the following category: Smart governance.
Helsinki Metropolitan Area consists of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. Their decision to open up public data through Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) was motivated by a desire to better connect with citizens and improve the quality of public services. HRI was developed by the four cities, in collaboration with the Forum Virium Helsinki, an organisation dedicated to developing new digital services in cooperation with public and private partners, and SITRA, the Finnish innovation fund, with financial support from the Finnish ministry of finance.
In 2010-2012, the project concentrated on developing the web platform, including a data catalogue, guidance on opening data and a gallery of applications that can be created with the data. In 2011, Helsinki City Council adopted an electronic case management system, Ahjo. This means a paperless office for 5,000 city officials and decision makers. All of these documents are available publicly. The interface gives access to agendas and minutes from the city council, city board and various committees. The platform was refined in 2013 and fully functioning by 2014. Its aim is to encourage stakeholders to open up more data and promote the usage of unlocked data sets.
The service has so far opened up a good 1,000 different datasets, including data on public transport, public decision making, public service points, maps, statistics and, more recently, detailed statistical data on schools, wellbeing and social services, historical maps, and aerial photos. Geo-coded data is frequently requested.
An example of an app developed using HRI data is ‘Ahjo Explorer’, which gives access to all the public decisions concerning the city of Helsinki. Another is ‘Blindsquare’, designed to help blind people navigate the city. Other apps have been designed around public transport and services for tourists, amongst others.
The startup phase cost around €820,000 while the 2013 budget was €270,000. When the project enters the maintenance phase, it is expected to cost around €60,000 a year. Development projects will be financed separately.
The more data available to citizens and stakeholders, the better they can develop informed opinions about, and understand the thinking behind, public decision making. Data can be used in many ways. For example, developers can create applications that make public services more accessible and convenient, and researchers can analyse datasets. The advantage of such apps is that they make using public services easier and more accessible for citizens, improving quality of life and satisfaction, having a positive impact on the city, and creating new businesses and jobs.
Opening public data does not necessarily come naturally to public administrations. This was one of the challenges faced in developing HRI. Now, HRI is working to improve understanding of the value of opening public data and encourages member cities to do this as standard practice.
HRI is based on the contribution of member cities and citizens. Each member city within HRI has its own contact person who continually monitors and identifies data that could be published. Anyone can give feedback on the data and suggest specific data they would like to see published.
HRI shares its experiences internationally, for example through the EU Open Cities project, in which Helsinki was a partner.
Cities in action - Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI), Sharing data for better services - EUROCITIES, March 2014.
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