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Martín Álvarez-Espinar, engineer in Computer Science, is the manager at the W3C Spanish Office. He has broad experience in Web standards development. Martín has worked as eGovernment consultant at CTIC since 2007, specialized in the Open Government field. He has participated in the development of over a dozen of Open Government Data initiatives in Europe, and he is part of various working groups at W3C and in the European Commission’s Joinup, for the standardization of technologies in the Open Data and PSI re-use field.

A city that is considered smart should try to maximise the cooperation with individuals and companies that are part of it,  encouraging innovation in all the society and achieving more efficacy and efficiency in the governance of the territory. There are numerous possible ways for public-private collaboration that can be carried out, not only referring the reuse of information, but also in the previous phase of data gathering and opening.  

Why not involving the citizenship in the data gathering and including the individuals as active part into the processing and the obtaining of information chain needed to improve the management processes in the city? This data gathering could be manually (by specific applications or services) or automatically (based on devices that could be carried by people themselves).

There are more Internet-connected devices every day capable of recording and processing this data trickle – small data—: devices installed in the buildings that measure the characteristics of the environment and the metrological variables (for instance, using open hardware platforms); those part of accessories that can be dressed (bracelets, watches, rings, clothing with integrated devices, or any element that monitor the activity or vital signs of who are wearing it);  using devices integrated in smart phones (gyroscopes, GPS receivers, temperature, atmospheric pressure, etc.)

The timely data gathering by the citizenship could provide the public administrations with great amount of reliable and accurate information not only about the real situation of different zones of the territories, but also about the habits and behavior of the population. The analysis and automatic data processing, along with the information from the administration itself, would generate a tickle of data that, as time goes on, will be massive and will tend to what is known as big data, offering many more possibilities.

A basic example illustrating this idea about citizenship collaboration within efficient governance – in this occasion motivated by the generation of business – is in this case the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) in the United States, and the Strava company, a social network based on an application for mobile devices that is used for about 10 million people worldwide. In 2013 this public agency paid about $ 20,000 for the license and data mining of a set of data with information about the activities of more than 17,700 residents and visitors. The main objective of this acquisition was a realistic analysis of the citizens’ habits in order to get an efficient improvement in urban road panning and the management of the transport in the region.

Thanks to this and many other examples we can value the great potential of aggregated open data with many others around us and that we generate each step we take, making the most of them to develop our society.

 


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Pablo Rodríguez Bustamante, Geographer, Owner-consultant at GEOCyL. He holds a Geography, Urbanism and Land Management Advanced Studies Diploma (recognized researcher), PhD candidate and Associate Professor at University of Valladolid (Spain). “Mi Ciudad Inteligente” -My Smart City- Project promoter. He collaborates with several web/blogs writing articles and posts about smart cities, smart mobility and geomarketing and has been recognized with several awards for entrepreneurship.

Geographic information systems (GIS) should be considered as tools that allow for a better formulation of geographic issues, opening a scope of action that enables the practical application of just about the totality of ideas. This is why cities are presented as adequate spaces to organize information through a GIS, easily elaborating data calculations and interpolating between the different sources. There lies the importance of open data in cartography, as they permit the interpolation of data that, after their standardization, will allow handling large volumes of information with precision and certainty.

Data processing is often a complex task. Handling massive quantities of information –even at local level– requires an exhaustive management and organization –basically, processing– of information. For that purpose, spatial data infrastructures (SDIs) were created to deal mostly with homogeneous, validated and “official” data. Accordingly, the best method to deal with local information must also be based on a SDI, so it allows us to access information easily; not replicating data and using them jointly, regardless of the type of user. Besides, they enable the monitoring and evolution of cartographic information and, more so, geographic.

The general diagram that configures a SDI as the pillar around which smart city services are devised collects various types within the level of the collected information: reference data, real time data, historic data and third-party sources (Pérez 2013).

Information Technologies affect us from a double perspective. They cause change in the occupation modes of land use in society, completely altering the basic elements of the analysis: nature, the city and their interrelations.

GIS, cutting-edge mobile phones (GPRS, UMTS), digital television, relational database management systems, global positioning systems (GPS) and other technologies (PDA, map servers, Internet) are converging in a digital world where information is capable of transforming our relations systems and our work, becoming a fundamental factor in our lives (Hoyuela 2002).

Spain leads the production of free geographic data at European and global level in different scales, sources and organizations. The availability of this information through spatial data infrastructures is putting territorial and urban planning in a different dimension.

New projects and frontiers are being opened with the use of OS data: transportation, urbanism and energy planning; the integration of green infrastructure; and forest, water, landscaping and cultural heritage management, among others, benefit greatly from this gratuity, quality and availability of information.

Projects such as the electronic sites of Catastro, CARTOCIUDAD, LOCALGIS, the IGN (Spanish National Geographic Institute) national map (BCN25, BCN50…), or PNOA as basic cartographies, or IGME (geological and mining maps), CHD (flooding risk management), or SIGMENA, including others such as Open Street Maps, are configured  in collaborative and very dynamic groups.

Open data have enabled the materialization of important initiatives that manage geographic data, such as GvSIG or CartoDB. Accordingly, there is a more intensive use of quality geographic information in urban territorial plans, of great importance for the organization of smart cities.


 

Bibliography: 

Hoyuela Jayo, José Antonio. The Sustainable City II. The role of technologies of the information and the communication in the sustainable planning. Segovia: WIT Press, 2002. Available on: http://www.witpress.com/Secure/elibrary/papers/URS02/URS02007FU.pdf

Pérez, Mª J.; López-de-Larrínzar-Galdámez, J.; Fernández-Ruiz, Mª J.; Morán-Plo, V.; Rodrigo-Cardiel, P.; Usón, M. Actas de las IV Jornadas Ibéricas de Infraestructuras de Datos Espaciales (JIIDE’2013), Toledo, 13-15 de noviembre de 2013. Infraestructuras de Datos Espaciales como eje central del desarrollo de las Smart Cities. 2013. Available on: http://www.idee.es/resources/presentaciones/JIIDE13/jueves/18_Smart_Cities.pdf

 

Cover photo by Milada Vigerova.


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Pablo Rodríguez Bustamante, Geographer, Owner-consultant at GEOCyL. He holds a Geography, Urbanism and Land Management Advanced Studies Diploma (recognized researcher), PhD candidate and Associate Professor at University of Valladolid (Spain). “Mi Ciudad Inteligente” -My Smart City- Project promoter. He collaborates with several web/blogs writing articles and posts about smart cities, smart mobility and geomarketing and has been recognized with several awards for entrepreneurship.

Urban centers are in constant evolution, they settle as the most common way for society – hence, the territory – to organize. Nowadays, more than half the world population live in cities (according to the UN, this number is expected to increase up to more than 66% of the world population).

We may call them intelligent, sustainable, digital, human, creative, but what is clear is that they follow a common pattern, a common course, a common drive shaft that concerns their managers: their sustainability (on the territory, environmental, economic or social). The area plays a fundamental role in current cities, and from there, their planning. These towns need well-developed, accurate management systems to handle massive amounts of data, which must be open.

The real problem lies with transferring the physical work to the digital world, as Carlo Ratti stated: “We are basically building a digital copy of our physical world and that is having profound consequences.” (Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable Cities Lab at MIT)

Why should data be open?

Open data allows handling information on a large scale, not just local but global. Therefore the motto of IODC2016 [www.opendatacon.org] fits so well in this lecture: “Global goals, local impact.” Data should be open, affordable for the entire population. Why? Because they generate value.

Data value lies with the user’s capacity to handle them, to use them and make the most of them. Data are the fundamental base of decisions in the organization of territory, the spatial planning. They warn us about previous issues and their evolution so we can predict future outcomes. They allow anticipation.

Governments, regardless of their scale, need to open data. It is fundamental to make them available to users – companies, universities, individuals, etc. The struggle towards transparency is now an open fight as well, in which there is a lot to overcome. Besides, these data need to be homogeneous – for their use and reuse – and standardized – allowing their crossing, speed on analyses and capacity of command and management (over them and the city). Our cities, regions and states need a global data platform to work with, and only then we will be able to obtain more reliable, practical and dynamic results.

Most of these data have a place in space, in territory; this allows Geographic Information Systems to function as a powerful and versatile database for cities. There are various applications for these information systems, and in our current world, where mobility is rather important, many location-based apps or mobile applications to achieve the objectives that both the Administration and the user set themselves.


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March 8, 2016 Marc Garriga

Marc Garriga graduated in Computer Engineering from UPC (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) and in Market Research and Techniques from UOC (Open University of Catalonia). Being an expert on Open Data and, more generally, in open government, he has taken part in various initiatives in each field. By mid-2012, he set up desideDatum Data Company, a company focused on offering services related to management and data opening such as consulting the Generalitat de Catalunya (on the creation of the Catalonia Transparency Portal, which will host more than a thousand public entities), among many other projects related to open data, open government and Smart Cities.

Besides, desideDatum Data Company is one of Socrata’s main partners, the most important open data service provider globally.

He is a pro-public sector, pro-transparency, pro-open government and pro-Network Society activist; among others, he is founding member of the Spanish Chapter on the Open Knowledge Foundation Network (OKFN-Spain), of Xarxa d’Innovació Pública (XiP), of the group Catalunya Dades, and he is a node at TheProject (THP).

According to the service of collection of open data portals at the CTIC Foundation, there are currently more than 150 Open Data portals in Europe and about 300 globally. One must take into account that in the CTIC Foundation service, the mentioned portals are those which offer large quantities of data and also those with narrow data opening. Some of them offer quality data, although in other cases one may consider a euphemism to even mention the quality of data. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is an increasing number of organizations (Commonly public administrations) that are opening their data even though, as José Luis Marín stated, there is still a long way to go, there is much to be opened yet.

However, I personally believe that, in many cases, if we do not open more data that is because data opening services are not completely integrated within the internal processes of data management – yet – or, what is worse, many public administrations lack a good internal data management (either open or not).

My expertise in providing advice to public administrations about how to implement a sustainable data opening service has brought me to recommending a previous step to this process: the implementation of an internal policy of data management.

In reality, it is very hard to offer a quality open data service if, internally, there is not a good data management policy. Without that management it will be extremely complicated to openly provide a great quantity of data with a minimum standard of quality (adequate updating, semantic description of data, homogeneous data with other administrations, etc.).

At my workplace, I deal with clients (public administrations) that want to open data for different reasons: sometimes due to initiatives related to the transparency of the institutions (given that data with a more “democratic” aspect are opened, they take advantage of this and open other data); other times, data opening stems from the economic sector that demands data, and institutions cleverly open data not only for those who request it, but for everyone; in other cases…why hiding it? One can decide to open data just because it has become a “trend” to do so.

Nonetheless, as I mentioned above, I often find realities in which the internal data management is frankly ineffective or even inexistent. The most common problems are:

  • Data are not described semantically through metadata (private or following international standards).
  • There is no transversality of data, not even inside the organization itself (among its own departments).
  • There is no homogenisation of data, neither internally nor externally between similar organizations.
  • Frequently, datasets are not updated and/or are not complete.
  • There is no responsibility over each dataset; said responsibility stays in a limbo that favors nobody in terms of assuming the obligation of certifying the quality of said datasets (ensuring that the aforementioned points are implemented). A good example in this case is the City of Chicago Data Dictionary.

In summary, before starting a data opening process, there has to be an internal organization in the institution that decides to open data; only then a good open data service can be achieved and, besides, a good internal data management will result in an improvement of the internal efficiency, a crucial step that any organization must take (public or private).


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January 20, 2016 Alicia Asín

A guest post from Alicia Asín, CEO in Libelium, hardware manufacturer for wireless networks of sensors for the Smart Cities and Internet of Things.

With the amount of data we are creating on the Net, we are on the edge of the abyss because of the overcharge of information. What will happen when we have 50 billions of devices connected to Internet and creating trillions of data? Will we be able to extract the useful information? If the Big Data is the way to transform the business and society, the Open Data will play a fundamental role to ensure that the information is really accessible and open to everybody.

With the technological progress, our world is living another revolution and the citizens demand more transparency and equality. In this regard, data will only be open if somebody is able to use it freely, reuse it and redistribute it equally.

If we apply this concept to the management of smart cities, the use of existing data on the Net could promote the creation of new business models. In this way, Open Data must be considered as a potential gold mine for the management of the local economy.

In fact, some cities share the data they generate through their devices which are connected to Internet for the problem solving. New York city, with its project ‘NYC Big Apps’, organize an annual competition to develop apps which use the Open Data databases which are generated by the city council to resolve the problems of the city. The aim is improving the citizens’ life in the Big Apple, promoting the innovation and economical development. Other similar projects exist in the city of Zaragoza or Amsterdam, for instance. And the ‘European Open Cities App Challenge’ is a contest which rewards the individuals and companies that find new ways to solve the problems of the big cities.

It is curious the case of the police department of Columbia, in United States. When it was decided to publish the statistics of the local crimes in Open Data format, somebody decided to relocate them to a maps format to make the information more visual and another person developed an app called ‘Are you Safe?’, combining the geolocation with the positioning of those points for sending warnings to the citizen when he came in a neighbourhood qualified as dangerous according to the criminal rates.

But there are even more. The use of Open Data not only promote the economical development through business models which did not exist before, but it also stimulates the transparency of information for the citizens. If the billions of sensors that inhabit our cities produce Open Data, we should be able to make decisions based in the measurement that they register.

Let’s imagine that a government worried about the traffic congestion and the CO2 emissions from vehicles decides to active a toll and smart parking system in the city in order to reduce the jams and contamination. If the numbers of contamination and traffic volume were accessible for the community and we knew the cost of inversion in the toll and parking systems, the citizens would have useful information to value the political decisions and evaluate our leaders in a better way.

However, Open Data is nothing without a context. A friend of mine lives in one of the pioneering Open Data cities in Spain. He likes running and one day he had problems to breath, so he asked himself if the contamination would have increased. He checked the air quality parameters published by the local government, but he did not understand anything. Despite the fact that the data were available for the community, there was not a context to compare. So he spent three days reading an EU directive to finally understand that the majority of the parameters related to the pollution air levels in his city were beyond the recommended thresholds.

In conclusion, it is true that we have more access to the information than before. But it is very difficult to understand for people who are not expert. Is the over-information a new way to hide the information? I am afraid that this is a new phenomenon that is not derived from the Internet of the Things. I remember how the mechanical breakdowns of an european airline filled the news in Spain for a week some years ago. They offered data in absolute terms but nobody talked about the number of flights that the company was performing in comparison to others. It took me two weeks in realizing if that data was my real motive of concern until one journalist published a graphic with the percentages of breakdowns over the total number of another companies’ flights. And it resulted that the affected airline, was “simply” in the European average. The problem is that, if the citizens don’t exhibit a great critical sense and we demand contextualised information, we are totally at the mercy of the manipulation of data.

For this reason, the “journalist verification”, promoted by sites like Gapminder or Open Knowledge gains more importance than ever. Even the organization Visualizing.org struggles to give sense to this topic through data, supported by a combination of websites where other organizations can upload and share combinations of Open Data. If we demand the context and the facts instead of just numbers, the great legacy of the Internet of The Things will be a more transparent and democratic world. This way, we will prevent IoT from becoming the “bad bank” of Big & Open Data.


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December 28, 2015 Natalia Carfi

A guest post from Natalia Carfi, BA in political sciences, former Legislative Modernization Director for Buenos Aires City Legislature, Open Government Coordinator for Secretary General of the Presidency of Chile, currently working for the Buenos Aires City Lab.

As one of the Stewards developing and promoting the Open Data Charter, I had the opportunity to join the Smart City World Congress that took place in November in Barcelona. This is the world’s biggest annual event about “smart cities,” gathering around 14,000 people over three days.

The “smart cities” world and the open government/open data world are not yet having the most coordinated conversations. The different movements are based on different preconceptions, so it was interesting to wonder who would attend our workshop on the Uses of Open Data and the Charter, and what the commonalities and differences between the two worlds would be.

As background, the initial draft of the Charter was introduced at a workshop prior to the 2015 International Open Data Conference in Ottawa. The Charter Lead Stewards team—which includes the Mexican and Canadian governments, the Omidyar Network, the Web Foundation and IDRC—invited other institutions into the process and that’s how I got involved.

I joined the conversation certain that the Charter could help spark closer interaction between the different conversations about open data standards and regulations, and my expectations were surpassed. As part of the Stewards group we participated in drafting of the final text of the Charter, and I was pleased to see that the discussions on subnational and local government grow as the weeks went by.

Eventually a Charter Working Group was created to promote the adoption by subnational governments and to connect relevant initiatives from around the world. Last Friday, December 11th, we had the Working Group’s first virtual meeting, to discuss the first draft of Terms of Reference for subnational work on the Charter.

Meanwhile, we are also working to get out the word about the Charter itself. It was as part of that effort that I was invited to the Smart City conference in Barcelona. During that Workshop, co-presented with Arturo Muente of the World Bank, I was able to experience the already known fact that although technology plays a big role in Open Government and in Smart Cities, the perspective is quite different if you are discussing an Open Government initiative than if you are developing a city strategy.

Unlike many national-level data strategies, the creation of a smart city plan seems to have at its core the handling of data—open or not—not necessarily the opening up (i.e., the disclosure) of data. Our workshop was filled with many people working on local level projects who hadn´t heard much about Open Data but still knew a lot about new data technologies. When given the chance to think about a local problem they might solve using open data, however, most of the groups engaged in meaningful discussions and came up with great ideas. A lot of them then asked to learn more about the Charter and how they could get their organizations and governments involved.

My impression is that there a lot must still be done if we want to join up the conversations on open government and smart cities. And both “worlds” could make advances if there was better collaboration. Smart cities initiatives, for instance, seem to have a more developed relationship with the private sector, something we often lack in the open government space. Meanwhile civil society organizations were nowhere to be found in Barcelona, denying everyone involved a great opportunity for collaboration between the different actors in the urban sphere.

Smart Cities projects also seem to do stronger work developing platforms than they do ensuring their data (or their code) is open. It would be great if we in the open government world could bring that openness to that amazing city-level work, while learning from our counterparts in the Smart Cities how to build and iterate as fast as they do.

The action plan for the Charter sub-national Working Group includes a first in-person meeting in fall 2016, to be held as pre-event of IODC 2016. We are especially pleased because the city of Madrid is hosting the 2016 conference along with the Spanish government, so the Subnational governments will have a huge place in the agenda. Over the next few months, we will be planning the rest of our 2016 activities and aligning them with the IODC Roadmap. We continue to reach out to get more subnational governments involved and we look forward to working with the IODC community to foster stronger connections between national, local and municipal programs.


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