Smarter Cities with Open Data need involvement from citizens and companies

Today, individuals, companies and public institutions create data at a faster rate than ever before. Lots of Open Data portals are making thousands of datasets available and they are constantly asking for more to display. The task at hand is to raise awareness of the value of the data and it needs to be aimed at both companies, public institutions and private people. It is time to start talking about it.

Storytelling adds to peoples participation

To get private people interested in participating by making part of their own data available, we have to offer trustworthy anonymisation as well as incentives to join the data era. When asking for their data and maybe even encourage interaction, for example by asking participants to supply the number and age of people in their household to enhance the value of the data they supply, they need to understand the purpose – the story in the data. For the general public to see the value of their data they need to understand the perspectives and in some cases to get benefits or ‘feel good’ for their participation” In a case of allowing researchers to dig into the details of power usage in private households, the story would be the importance of getting an exact overview of power consumption across all household types and sizes to help lower consumption and follow the impact of environmental initiatives. In an era filled with companies offering customer loyalty programs and social media companies asking to trace the individuals behavior, a lot of data is tracked and stored – but the data are seen as part of a secret vault of knowledge that the specific company holds as part of their competitive advantage. People trade their data for something they see as valuable. Open Data portals and Smart City initiatives seldom have clear benefits to offer like the customer loyalty programs that offer bonuses, awards or vip-functionality. This makes the storytelling about how the data is used and how the society can benefit even more important.

Opening up data

It is still early days getting companies to share some of their data for the benefit of projects that are unknown at the time of making the data available. The vast majority of all companies hold their data tight to themselves, not to expose valuable insight to their competitors, insights they may not even have found yet themselves. At the same time, lots of Open Data projects are hoping for companies to participate, but without being able to put words to and motivate, why the companies should join and spend time and money on opening up parts of their data.

Demanding cooperation

A different approach seen is where publicly owned companies are either rewarded for or directly by law demanded to make part of their data publicly available. The idea being, that they should ‘lead the way’ – show how easy it can be done and ensure that the number of public available datasets constantly grow and help keep new project ideas arise when digging into the data. Thus motivating private companies to join. While it may seem like a noble idea, it has in some cases lead to the sharing of less interesting datasets with certain issues in diversity. To live up to the regulation, some organizations simply chose the dataset they find the easiest to share measured by the spend of fewest resources and working hours – leaving no thoughts to the value and potential of the dataset. So in order to grow the amount of valuable datasets available, we need to rethink, how it is done.

Helping all of us by being interested in data

We need to share our stories of how we use data to the benefit of society. Help all of us to acknowledge the value of data initiatives and maybe even get us interested in actively taking part in projects that potentially could help save the environment, make the school roads more safe, lower crime rates, advanced healthcare offered at home to mention but a few ideas. “Share the stories of the difference the availability of data already have made and share ideas on uses to come” Apart from the obvious tasks of making it easy, secure and trustworthy to share data, the question remains: How can we motive private companies to take part in the future projects? One idea is to add business value for the companies already at the time of participation by offering them a “We support Smart Communities and value Open Data” certificate which can be used for marketing purpose. A certificate enables the companies to show their customers, that they do care about society and that they value being part of the initiatives. Make it matter in the exact same way as when companies supports research, funds community projects or sponsors a piece of rainforest. At Beyond Data we’ll look at some of the initiatives and example of cases. After all, it all starts with the sharing of data and good storytelling. Majken Sander,

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