The city of Enschede declared itself ‘Open Data City’ Monday night by adopting a motion in the City Council.
The motion was the result of cooperation between civil servants, at the information management department and the city council’s administrative staff, as well as me and other citizens in Enschede.
Early beginnings: Open Innovation Festival
It basically started a year ago when I got in touch with a few people at city hall to discuss the Open Innovation Festival, that was going to take place in June 2010. I offered to do a session on Open Data, and Patrick Reijnders and Peter Breukers of the city’s IM department and I teamed up to put the session together. Next to the session Patrick with some of his colleagues created an app that combined Twitter, Foursquare and geodata about the various venues in the festival, making it possible to see the discussion on Twitter for the entire festival as well as per venue, and see who was present in the session. The geodata needed (addresses with zipcodes and XY coordinates, was released to the public on that occasion)
At the end of the week Patrick and I put together an open data manifesto and presented that to an Alderman. Around that time I also translated the Vancouver Open Data Motion adopted in 2009 into Dutch and put it up on a wiki for further improvement.
In the following months we kept working on raising awareness for open government data. I gave a presentation in August to all of Patricks colleagues involved with IM, application management etc, as part of their yearly get together which Patrick was in charge of organizing this time.
In November a new, smaller, edition of the Open Innovation Festival took place, and I again did a presentation on Open Government Data. There I challenged the city government: I would give them 11 days of my time in 2011 to help them ‘do’ open government data, and I wanted to be paid in the public release of datasets.
In December, we, being Patrick, Lars Fehse (also with the city IM dept), Heinze Havinga (recently graduated student, now entrepreneur) and me put together the Enschede edition of the Global Hackday, which brought together some 20 coders and civil servants, including a city council member for a day of hacking. Patrick arranged the release of 25 datasets, by going around city hall asking his colleagues for data. Two prototypes were built on that data during the hackday. For the event we also launched the website http://opendataenschede.nl/
After the hackday, which made more people visible to each other around open data, we started to organize the ‘Enschede Data Drinks‘ (modeled after Alper Çugun’s Dutch Data Drinks), to informally bring together interested people.
The IM department was meanwhile looking into writing a project plan on how to release ‘easy data’ quickly and plan for making open data part of the regular processes over time. That is still ongoing. Others in the IM department, triggered by the awareness raising actions, made a little internal platform that would more easily allow the publication of data out of the back-office systems of the city.
In January we got a call from the administrative staff of the City Council. On the basis of my earlier translation of the Vancouver motion they were preparing an Open Data Motion. André de Rosa-Spierings and Jeroen Heuvel of the city council staff made sure the motion fitted the coalition agreement, current city gov goals etc, and building political supprt. The city council member that was at the Hackday in December, Erwin Ilgun, and his colleague Eelco Eerenberg from the ICT commission got behind it very quickly. We, (me, Patrick and others from the IM department) helped with the final wording, making sure it was technically correct and feasible, as well as connected to internal work already taking place.
The mentioned Council members were our hosts on March 7th when Patrick and I again did our presentations, this time for interested members of the city council, to explain the why, what and how of open data, as well as the things the IM department was already doing.
After that session, over the course of a week, all of the 9 parties represented in the city council became co-signatories to the motion putting it on the agenda. (Updated this sentence, I said 7 of 9 earlier)
Yesterday, on March 14th the motion was put on the agenda at the start of the meeting by Council member Erwin Ilgun, and it came up for debate and vote at the end of the meeting, near midnight, when I was the only one left on the public balcony to witness it. After Erwin Ilgun explained the motion, one party explained their opposition to the motion, other parties declared their support, and then it came up for a vote: 34 in favor, 3 against (those against cited privacy concerns when combining data sets).
The real work starts now
Now we have to get to work and make sure open data brings benefit to our city. I am very, very, pleased that my own hometown adopted this motion. Also because over the course of the past year I got to know and work with a whole range of people new to me, all passionate about their work. Normally my work takes me away from Enschede, this time I will be seeing the impact of my work right at home, and enjoy that impact with those who work in and care about this city.
The eleven days I gave the city government will go a long way in helping create that impact. Looking forward to it!
This is a (quick and dirty) English translation I made of the motion: