Turku to be the forerunner of open data

Halistenkosken kalatien virtaa
Published by ZeiP on Mon, 10/12/2020 - 21:10

Would you like to know what your tax euros are used for? Should data produced with public funding be usable and refinable by the citizens? Wouldn't it be awesome if a company in Turku could develop profitable and tax-gaining business by inventing a new way to utilise data?

Open data is an important part of open governance. It means that everyone can examine, utilise and refine data that has been produced with tax money. In Finland there have also been application competitions which have looked for the most interesting novel open data based solutions. Some examples of solutions that have succeeded in the competitions are

  • Eduskunta Explorer application, which shows and combines data from Eduskunta and actions taken by the members of the parliament,
  • Päästöt kartalla service (exhausts on a map), which shows data from the EU pollutant register,
  • Karttapullautin service, which can be used to create orienteering maps based on the open data from Maanmittauslaitos (National land survey),
  • Parkman parking service, which shows information of free parking spaces collected from open APIs and
  • Miils recipe application, which uses food nutritional data from THL (Finnish institute for health and welfare).

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of services and applications in Finland utilising open data provided by both public and private organisations. They can examine the use of governmental power by aggregating voting results, petitions and minutes; or create statistics of the budgets and purchasing information of public organisations to visualise the use of public money. They can also create new kinds of business. Even a private citizen can use open data to find information relevant to themselves; bikers, for example, have used parking ticket data to compare the amount of certain parking violations to problems observed in the city, for example parking on sidewalks.

Turku is one of the largest cities in Finland, and has for a long time been carrying out the 6aika strategy. One of the main projects in the strategy was the Avoin data ja rajapinnat project (Open data and interfaces), which ended in 2017. Turku has in the recent years opened widely it's assets, for example geographical information, source codes for it's web services and the event data in the city event calendar. The geographical information has been used by the volunteers developing the open geographical database OpenStreetMap to enhance the maps that you've also been using in some services.

In some things Turku is, however, dragging behind. Even many smaller municipalities, for example Sotkamo, are already publishing their purchasing data openly. They indicate what our public funds are used for and publishing them is key to the possibility of citizens influencing the financial decision making in their municipality. The matter has been discussed for years, but no clear indication has been given as to why Turku can't openly share it's purchasing data like so many other cities and municipalities. July this year city manager Minna Arve stated that the purchasing data will finally be published – in 2021! Kuntaliitto (association of Finnish municipalities) published a manual for publishing the purchasing data in 2016 – four years ago. Why is Turku, one of the large cities in Finland, only getting onboard five years after the manual was published and a whopping seven years after Helsinki first published it's information in 2014?

Turku is a runner-up for the other large cities in too many matters. Instead of bold new moves we're only doing things after everyone else is too. That isn't a recipe for success, but for lame mediocrity. Turku must rise as forerunner of the large cities as a modern, supportive and open city which develops itself for the challenges of the future. Every single one of us – yes, you too – can affect the direction of our beloved city in the municipal elections next spring.