Tuesday, 25 Jan 2022  |  Reading time:  12 mins  | Read online

Open data

Each week we focus on a different global topic, highlighting innovative content and insights from LGIU and our members around the world.  

This week's Global Local Recap focuses on open data. Open data has been ubiquitous recently in the form of Covid-19 dashboards, graphs, and statistics, but local governments can expand its use in other areas.

What is open data? “Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share [the data] for any purpose,” (Open Knowledge Foundation). Examples include sensor-recorded environmental data, library collection information, public spending or census data. Open data should protect privacy and never include personal data. The data holder can require attribution and for the data to be kept open, but no other limits should be imposed.

How can open data benefit local governments? Open data can inform local policy by providing an overview of services and how they interact. Data collected from citizens can monitor service delivery, while using open data for innovative initiatives such as hackathons offers a fresh perspective on existing issues. Making open data accessible through public portals improves transparency and boosts trust, particularly when data is visualised through graphics and maps.

What are some of the challenges? The resources required to utilise open data can be daunting for already-stretched councils. Opening data hubs or providing real-time updates can be expensive and skill-intensive, but open data initiatives can be as small as publicly releasing existing datasets. Incentivising other (especially private sector) organisations to share data can be difficult – this ODI report covers the potential co-benefits to highlight. Finally, it’s important to be aware of gaps and biases in data when using it to target areas for improvement, so as not to reinforce social inequality or digital exclusion.

Who inspired us this week? We loved the user-friendly ‘Data Issy’ platform by the City of Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, and the ODI’s collaborative ‘Data and Public Services’ toolkit, which is aimed at everyone involved in public services, not just those with technical skills.

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This week's featured content

Open for impact: Local government and the open data economy

By Michelle Tjondro, SGS Economics and Planning

Local governments are responsible for local matters: overseeing building regulations and development, delivering roads and pedestrian footpaths, parks, utilities, waste disposal, and a range of community services. Local governments can therefore amass data at various touchpoints between service delivery and consumers (i.e. individuals and households). These data were traditionally collected for a primary objective: for example, to determine whether the level or quality of service provision was adequate to meet local needs.

Beyond this, the data can be more comprehensively applied to many domains of regional planning: what mutual benefits can stem from addressing a service gap in one region with capacity from another? Would existing road, rail, and/or digital connectivity – not to mention congestion or bandwidth – accommodate this option?

Through this lens, the generative value of data becomes clear. One council’s data can be used to inspire and co-create solutions with other stakeholders in the open data ecosystem. Open data alone is not enough; rather, it needs to be integrated within the broader data value cycle to exert influence and transcend its net present value to realise its potential value. 

So, how can local governments get the most out of open data?

LGIU Global Local Highlights


Open data: a pathway for local government

The creative re-use of data represents enormous potential for government. This briefing discusses what local governments should consider prior to initiating open data investment. It also argues that a growing emphasis on the benefits of open government data masks some important nuances in the barriers and opportunities for local entities.
Read the article here.

Swift Read: Global best practice in data and evidence led governance

This briefing provides a summary of the What Works Cities Certification, which is an initiative that can help cities determine whether they have the right practices in place to put data and evidence centrally in decision-making. 
Read this briefing here.

Nordic Smart Cities: Using open data to improve population health

The pandemic has seen populations more open than ever to helping to collect and report their individual health data for collective outcomes. In this blog, we highlight innovation from the Nordic Smart City Network, where cities are using data from a range of sources to target health and wellbeing issues extending well beyond Covid-19. 
Read this blog here.

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies and news from around the globe

UK: Tackling waste through transparency

Information on waste services and recycling can be hard to find and understand in the UK, creating extra landfill. In 2020, waste start-up Dsposal began a data project to promote transparency, track compliance and develop open standards to reduce confusion and help tackle illegal and unscrupulous activities in the sector. If adopted across local authorities, open data standards can help track contractors and make linking, sharing or comparing recycling data easier for both councils and the public.
Dsposal / The ODI

France: Tech centre seeks to make open data accessible to all

Home to many ICT businesses, the City of Issy-les-Moulineaux recognises that open datasets are difficult for many non-experts to understand. The city’s ‘Data Issy’ platform, launched in 2012, features user-friendly visualisations of municipal data and services, from an interactive map showing recycling locations and collection days to a colourful breakdown of the city’s financial report. Other pages include a dashboard comparing annual carbon emissions against municipal targets and a searchable index of council motions.
Data Issy / Issy.com

Czech Republic: Open portal boosts public data access and autonomy

The Brno City Municipality launched its own open data platform in December 2020 to collect and share its spatial data in one place. The platform allows the municipality to have control over all the website content, independent from suppliers. The portal particularly highlights data and interactive maps relating to mobility, including public transport access, cycle traffic intensity, and street gradient, in addition to air quality data and a story map of feelings towards places across the city.
Brno Open Data Platform / Tech4Good Marketplace

Uruguay: Empowering citizens to make informed healthcare choices

In Uruguay’s mixed public-private healthcare system, citizens are annually given the opportunity to switch healthcare provider. To help people make decisions, the Ministry of Health partnered with an open data civil society organization to create A Tu Servicio. The service provides a website with accessible stats and infographics on information such as facility types, wait times, and care goals, all based on open government health data – enabling informed choice for citizens and spurring improvements to the health sector. 
The GovLab

Policy & Resources

Research, analysis and examples of policy in practice from leading institutes and places like yours

Toolkit: Data and Public Services (ODI)

After working with local authorities across the UK to find data-enabled innovation in public services, the ODI noted consistent challenges in lacking clarity of data availability, value, or ethical considerations. In response, they developed this toolkit to help people delivering public services overcome barriers and use data effectively.

Resources: Open Data Policy Hub (The Sunlight Foundation)

This resource hub is a “one-stop shop” for local governments seeking to create their own open data policy. A readable step-by-step guide highlights the stages involved in making an open data policy and what mistakes to avoid. A set of guidelines indicates what data should be made public and how, supported by wording examples from existing USA open data policies.

Case studies: Becoming more open: the view from four European cities (ODI)

After identifying the European cities most embracing open data, open culture and citizen engagement, the ODI conducted interviews to explore the cities’ strategies and plans for the future. This report delves into the results to discover how cities are utilising open data.

Partnerships: Open Data Literacy project (University of Washington, USA)

The role of public librarians as “infomediaries” is likely to evolve and extend further to assist community members with accessing a rapidly growing pool of public data. The Open Data Literacy project is a partnership between the University of Washington, public libraries and state and local governments to train librarians and students in open data skills and produce open education resources to upskill the wider public.

Interest in more LGIU Global Local content?

Podcast: Gospel and Crockett: building on a small town’s cultural heritage

In the latest Global Local Podcast episode, Ingrid Koehler talks to her home town mayor in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. As the ‘birthplace of Southern Gospel’ and the home of an annual festival, Mayor Lay talks about how cultural heritage helps a small town support economic prosperity. 
Listen here.

Blog: Robert Burns Humanitarian Award

A Doctor fighting for the rights of children, a nun helping destitute women and a Zambian looking to end marginalisation, are all in the running for this year's Robert Burns Humanitarian Award (RBHA). Read the blog here.

Thanks for reading!

Next week, we’ll share a new research paper on global health inequalities. Our 3-minute Global Local survey closes this week. Don’t miss out on making your voice heard!

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