Bart Rosseau (Gent): “We do not know what data will be used for. We just have to get them right.”

Bart Rosseau 200x200“It is exciting to see what buildings can be built with the the data blocks we provide,” says Bart Rosseau. The “Chief Data Officer” from de the Belgian city of Gent will be one of the speakers on Euroforum’s  Beyond Open Data event in march, 2016.
“We focus on the people that want to re-use our data. They might be IT-students, startup companies or professionals that want to create an app. They have a need for data, and ask us to publish them in a way that suits best their purpose. But the purposes of one single question may vary. For example someone may want to know which kind of trees there are in our streets, and where. This may serve a purpose like ‘calculating how much CO2 will be cleaned out of the air by trees’. Another purpose may be ‘to find out which areas  will give the least problems to people with hay fever’.”

There will be more, very different purposes, like these. How do you decide whether data will be available?

“The first question is whether we, as the city of Gent, actually have the data, and if we are entitled to share them.  Secondly, we examine whether the data are available in a technical format that can be easily exported. And third, are there privacy issues concerned: can we publish the data and meanwhile make sure they are completely anonymous?”
“But even then, lots of data can be published. We can tell which car parks are likely to be full at a certain time, without telling whose cars are there at that time.”

So how do you handle these requests for data?

“We can lead them to a portal where the data are made available in different technical formats. And there it is up to the  users to search for the input they need for their specific app.”

So how do you make the data findable and interpretable?

“This comes down to metadata. They are very important: describing what the data mean. And to make sure that the measuring unit is clear. So we have to make clear that parking spaces are measured in square meters, instead of square feet.”

Does this imply a lot of dialogue with other cities working on the same thing?

“It does indeed. I am the chairman of a group of European of cities (Eurocities) that collaborate on these data sets. We discuss standards and work towards uniformity in our data-supply. Meanwhile the processes behind the scenes are different in every city!”

The development of data use is still at a starting point.

“Absolutely. The data literacy will grow. There is an increase in interest for journalistic, academic and government use of data. Let alone the commercial purposes. The city will grow in understanding which data are needed. The availability of real time data (and apps using real time data) will make even more solutions possible. We’re only starting!”

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