What is the purpose of the open data websites maintained by different cities around the world, and what kind of information do they provide?

City life is multifaceted and involves vast amounts of information, which needs to be stored in one convenient and accessible location. Open data portals, including Moscow's e-services, have become one of the Moscow Urban Forum’s topics of discussion.

Open data portals are now available in many world capitals and major metropolitan areas, including Moscow. Such websites offer a variety of crucial information about city life, such as the addresses and telephone numbers of various organisations, transport and safety information, information about museums and other cultural landmarks, and much more. They also post information about government bodies, and statistics provided by various departments.

Moscow open data portal

The Moscow open data portal addresses the key inconveniences faced by users as they tried to locate information about social infrastructure facilities. There were too many websites, and not all of them posted accurate information. Search engines were inconvenient, and on top of it, users were annoyed by obtrusive online ads.

Moscow’s official open data portal was launched on 29 January 2013. It is a single municipal automated system that supports the Moscow Open Government’s activities. The information posted on the portal comes from a data warehouse, which the Moscow Government agencies use in their day-to-day operations.

This ensures the provision of comprehensive, up-to-date and accurate information. Compared with the websites of other cities, the Moscow portal features a diversified structure, with data distributed across 27 categories. The website has a section with popular open data-based apps. Moscow residents can use the website to interact more effectively with the Government. Over 70 popular data sets, such as Traffic Violation Statistics, Wi-Fi in Moscow Parks and Moscow Gas Stations Dealing in Low-Grade Fuel, to name a few, have been created at users’ requests. The open data portal covers a variety of issues, ranging from the addresses of baby food banks to lists of Moscow fountains and pedestrian underpasses. In all, the portal boasts over 600 data sets.

"We have provided access to all downloading and viewing statistics. We regularly publish catalogues of third-party applications that are based on our data, and accept applications for data that still need to be disclosed," the Information Technology Department told us.

Data for regular users is presented in the form of a table, and data for developers is available in machine-readable formats. Information with geolocation data is displayed on a map, while downloadable files contain coordinate object definition.

Actual data is entered and maintained manually in a single data repository through user interface, or automatically by web services operated by integrated municipal, industry-specific, or departmental systems. All information collecting and updating processes are properly regulated, and each data set is updated at a predetermined time.

For example, data sets pertaining to "taxicab licenses issued for transporting passengers and baggage" are updated on a daily basis, while "traffic violations recorded by traffic enforcement cameras” are updated on a monthly basis, and "top 100 commercial lease debtors" data sets are updated quarterly.

Data from a single data warehouse are used not only for disclosure on the open data website, but also by other citywide projects, such as Our City, Government Services and Active Citizen, for inter-agency cooperation within the Moscow Government.

The portal has a user feedback interface within sections such as FAQ, a forum and a dataset assessment function. In addition, users can report online about incorrect or incomplete data, or propose adding another item.

Indicator

At the end of 2013

At the end of 2014

At the end of 2015

Currently

Views

~ 600,000

~ 11 mln

~ 40 mln

~ 63 mln

Downloads

230,000

~ 1 mln

~ 1.3 mln

~ 1.4 mln

Data providers

24

30

48

59

Published datasets

230

308

506

634

All messages coming from the portal are moderated and redirected to data providers. Prior to a reply being sent, the answers are assessed in terms of completeness of information, and are  sent back for revision, if necessary.

In 2014, the Moscow Open Data portal won the Runet Prize in the category "For Developing Regional Online Projects." In 2015, it was runner-up in the Smart Cities Awards international contest as part of Moscow's urban solutions system in the "City" category. 

Indicator

Data

The number of items in the datasets

Over 2 mln

The number of datasets translated into English

143

The number of registered IT developers

1,114

 

Other cities’ websites

Offene Daten Berlin

The Open Data Berlin website has posted 1,038 datasets in 22 categories (holidays and traditions, labour market, social assistance, demographics, healthcare, sport and leisure, real estate, consumer protection, foreign national services, etc.). The data can also be searched for using tags. Among other data, Offene Daten Berlin also contains lists of schools, kindergartens and libraries in all 12 city districts. The website also posts information for refugees and has a section with information about open data-based projects.

OpenData Bruxelles

As part of the OpenData initiative, the Brussels Government has posted its data on the OpenDataBruxelles website. Reporters, developers, researchers, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens can at any time access the information they need about culture, tourism, transport, utilities and much more. The homepage features columns with the most popular datasets, such as information about ATMs or drinking fountains, as well as the most recent publications. As with other similar portals, users are free to use a special form to suggest publishing particular data or topics.

London Datastore

London Datastore is an open data exchange portal with information about the British capital. The website has nine major sections: Business and Economy, Transport, Environment, Crime and Community Safety, Housing, Demographics, Health, Championing London, Education, and others. Fun facts pop up when you hover your cursor over different topics: for example, London's population grew by seven percent over the past five years to a total of 8,663,300. Interestingly, the London Open Data website can be used to discuss a variety of issues, such as environmental problems. How can harmful emissions be reduced? How can London’s open spaces be used to grow food? How can the impact of polluted air be lessened? These are just a few topics posted in the community. On the right side of the page, you can follow @LDN_data on Twitter. This website won The Open Data Awards 2015.

OpenData Ottawa

The Open Data website of the Canadian capital also has nine categories: Business and Economy, City Hall, Demographics, Environment, Geography and Maps, Health and Safety, Living, Planning and Development and Transportation. For convenience, the data sets are grouped by communities (eg., civil rights) and topics (transportation, health or the environment). The same dataset can be found in more than one group. The website is powered by the CKAN platform. Governments of different countries (including the UK and other EU countries, and Brazil, to name a few) use its tools to publish, share, search for and use the data.

ParisData

The ParisData website was launched in 2011. The portal was created as part of an open innovation policy to facilitate participation of Paris residents in experiments to improve the life of their city and share their opinions. The website features a forum where users can discuss various issues. Data can be searched for using either a search form or a map. The website has over 170 datasets divided by type, such as urban planning, retail outlets (enterprises), finance, services, etc. As with the London website, the right side of the page features the @opendataparis Twitter feed and related posts. Free apps based on Paris Open Data are available for downloading here.

Russian cities’ open data websites

In Russia, not only major urban areas open their data. Almost every region has such websites (or corresponding sections on official websites). Some of the websites, such as in St Petersburg, and the Tula and Vologda regions, have followed Moscow's design, while others chose to develop their own websites.

The Russian Government does not only provide open data across the regions, but also, for example, encourages web developers to work with this information. The All-Russian Open Data Contest was held in 2015. Participants developed online applications (social, business and others) based on open data posted online.

St Petersburg

Its portal is structured similarly to the Moscow website and features 129 datasets from 45 official suppliers. The information is broken down into 21 categories. Different search filters can be used: by topic, map, supplier or keyword. The home page features the most popular datasets (including, not surprisingly, St Petersburg Cultural Heritage Sites). Online surveys help keep the portal user friendly.

Novosibirsk

The Open Data website of Novosibirsk was launched in July 2015. Currently, the website operates through 65 datasets with information about urban infrastructure facilities. The bulk of data focuses on housing and utilities, culture, education and retail. The website is constantly updated: users can leave feedback as to what kind of data they would like to have open access to, and developers regularly post new socially important information. The Statistics segment shows the number of dataset downloads (the Housing and Utilities and Retail segments are the most popular among Novosibirsk residents).

Kazan

The Open Data website in Kazan was created to inform Kazan residents about the activities of the state authorities. Currently, the website boasts 144 of the most important and useful datasets for developers and ordinary users. The website has a frequently updated  section called "Dynamic Datasets." For example, it shows the current location of buses in Kazan. Also, an app called "Where are buses now?" was created based on released data. Users can identify the current location of a particular vehicle using the coordinates received from devices installed on the buses, trolley buses and trams.

The Sverdlovsk Region

The website of the Open Government of the Sverdlovsk Region (which went into operation in August 2015 and has so far been operating in beta mode) has a section with the 464 open datasets of the region (four segments out of 16 – Leisure and Recreation, Maps, Tourism and Electronics – have not been filled out yet).

Open data relevance criteria

The relevance of the datasets is the main criterion for being able to refer to a particular city as advanced in terms of open data, the IT Department told us. The relevance benchmark includes the number of views and downloads, the number of applications and Web projects that are actually using them and the total number of users. If a city or a department posts a thousand datasets on their respective website, each of which is viewed by only a few people a year, the costs involved in such disclosure and the effectiveness of such a website is clearly inferior to that of ten datasets with millions of visitors. The frequency of updates is equally important. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that a disclosure is a one-time event: data are posted and stay there for years without being updated, thus losing their relevance.

"In Moscow, we opted for disclosing information that developers and regular users might need. Each dataset is updated regularly by dedicated officials from industry-specific departments. Some data, such as job offers in the Mayor’s Office, are updated on a weekly basis. Others, such as the legal taxicab roster, are updated daily," the IT Department told us.

Usability is the hallmark of the Moscow Open Data portal. It is not a dump that only seasoned pros can navigate. Instead, it’s an intuitive working tool that can be used by ordinary visitors. Data is presented in a variety of forms, such as tables, maps or machine-readable formats. Convenient theme-based navigation tools are available. Each dataset comes with a passport and a clear description.

Spheres: Science and innovation