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.

Awareness Raising
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

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.

Then…the Motion
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:

It took over two years, but this week a FabLab opened right in my own home town, to both my and Elmine’s considerable joy.
FabLab Enschede has been a long time in the making, with the lead of the project changing hands several times (also between different institutions), but with the consistent and persistent support of civil servant(s) of the city, guiding the project through the various administrative hoops to secure funding. I wasn’t involved directly but on behalf of the FabLab Foundation added our experience with starting other labs, and helped the plan evolve.

In the end, the FabLab has ended up under the umbrella of Saxion Hogescholen (the local university for applied sciences), and has a focus on smart materials and textiles. It is housed directly adjacent to Saxion’s materials lab and product testing lab.

The formal opening was a great and festive event, with a lot of interest from the business community, and also a lot of people showed up who were eager to start making things. That however is not quite possible yet. Machines are still to be delivered (for the opening they borrowed some machines from elsewhere), and there is also still a job opening for the FabLab’s coordinator. So I am curious to see when it really opens, and how quickly it will gain traction in the local community here.

For now I am just extremely pleased that I as a board member of the FabLab Foundation BeNeLux could sign the license for FabLab Enschede, and that there is now a FabLab in my own city.

Last Saturday, December 4th, the international Open Data Day took place in conjunction with Random Hacks of Kindness. In 73 cities around the globe groups of people came together to work on open data. In the Netherlands activities took place in Amsterdam and my home town Enschede.

Open Data Enschede

How it came about
In the last days of October David Eaves (open data advocate from Vancouver) first gave voice to the idea of doing local open data events around the world on a single day. Others quickly picked this up. Mid November the Open Government Data Camp in London, hosted by the Open Knowledge Foundation, brought together people from 30 countries, and that was a good opportunity to increase momentum for the international open data hackathon, as we all got to meet face to face. A little over two weeks ago a few civil servants from Enschede, a student and me met up to discuss if we could take part. We had originally met during the Open Innovation Festival in Enschede in June this year, and were looking for a way to take the next step for open data in our city. Previously we boldly had announced a local open data event, but then over the summer organizing it stalled. We agreed that this international open data day might be the trigger we needed to actually do it. Over lunch we settled on a location: the one we were having lunch at, a meeting lounge in the city center with wifi. That afternoon we also brought a website, Open Data Enschede, online announcing our plans. Two of the civil servants involved, Patrick Reijnders and Peter Breukers started asking their colleagues inside city hall for data sets that could be released.

Visualization of cities tweeting about #odhd

Open Data Day
A few days before the event we knew that the work of Patrick and Peter paid off, and that we would have about 25 data sets to work with. The data covered amongst others neighborhood statistics, street names, house numbers, but also the sewage system, geographic height lines, and the location of bus stops and bus routes. We didn’t know how many people would be coming though. As it turned out we had 9 people there for the entire day, entrepreneurs, students, civil servants and an IT-savvy member of the city council, all with coding skills. We were joined for part of the day by about another 10 people. Some of them civil servants involved with information management and geo-information in the city, others from the ITC (international cartography university), as well as the head of the statistics department from the neighboring city Hengelo. This meant lively conversations throughout the day, along with real work being done with the data.
We ended the day with video sessions with the Open Data Day groups in Helsinki (video) and Vienna, talking about the outcomes.

The video session seen from both ends, in Helsinki on the left (photo Irmeli Aro), in Enschede on the right (photo Patrick Reijnders)

For Enschede the Open Data Day was a great success for two main reasons. First of all it meant that a first wave of data sets now has become available. Second, and more important, we have brought together almost 20 people interested in open data, who weren’t aware of each other before (see photos). This is a significant step in creating more momentum in Enschede. A next, more informal, meeting will take place in January 2011 to explore what ideas exist for open data in Enschede, and how to make them reality. The Dutch Data Drinks that Alper started to bring together open data enthusiasts in the Netherlands will get a local chapter, Enschede Data Drinks.
But, of course, like in other participating cities, we also built a few things on Saturday, both currently not more than alpha / demo material though. One is a map of all building permits in the city, with the possibility of accessing the underlying drawings of the building plans, which reuses the building permits data as it is available on the Enschede municipal website. This was build by Robin Janse and Maarten Brouwers, of the Bean Machine.
The other demo maps out companies that went bankrupt for any given post code in the Netherlands, by getting the data from the API of which in turn re-uses the Dutch trade register. This demo was build by Roy van der Veen.

Photo by Patrick Reijnders, Open Data Hackers at Work

I certainly came away from the day with a lot of energy, and am optimistic about moving open data forward in our city. To help stimulate that I offered the city 11 days of my time in 2011, to work with them on open data and figuring out ways how open data can be of benefit to local government as well. In exchange I don’t want money, but the release of data sets to the public. Let’s see if the city takes me up on my offer!

It seems it is finally coming in our neighbourhood: optical fibre connections into our home. It means 60Mb internet connection is now within reach, and we soon can leave our 6Mb ADSL connection behind. Brings back memories from when I thoroughly enjoyed getting my 56kb ISDN internet connection. Wow that was fast!
With all my talk about how infrastructures are having societal impacts outside the realm of technology, I am pleased to see this infrastructure reach my door.

Announcement of Elmines Birthday Unconference at the venue

Elmine edited the video statements she took from everybody at the Unconference on her birthday a month ago, and turned them into a 7 minute video document.
My major take-aways from the event are all around boundaries and balances, as I blogged a few days ago. (And I am still working on that.)

If you want to know what all the talk in the video is about, also have a look at the pictures of the flip over sheets, and the event itself that Elmine and I posted in Flickr.

(The video was originally hosted by, which still exist in 2021 but not as a general video hosting platform. The embed was no longer available, and not stored in the internet archive.)

Today is a national holiday in the Netherlands. On Queensday we traditionally celebrate the Queen’s birthday, but really it is the one national holiday that counts. Today the country will turn into one big street festival, with music, fleamarkets, games, drinks and food. The biggest party will be in Amsterdam attracting tens of thousands from outside the city, but Queensday is also very much about local community. About seven years ago, together with my old university buddy Danny de Vries, we joined the committee organizing festivities here in the city, with the aim to rejuvenate the committee and give the celebrations in the city a boost. I left the committee three years ago, when the changes had been effected for the most part. I am more of a change agent than a line manager 🙂 Danny is still going strong.
For the past few years our city (Enschede) has seen a music festival on the evening before Queensday, and different festivities on all the squares in the city, with a huge flea market/bazaar connecting the squares. With more than 20.000 visitors on the night before and over a hundred thousand in the city today, it is bound to be a great day again today. The sun is shining…so let’s put on some orange clothing (being our national color) and head out into the city.
If you can not make it to the Netherlands today, you can always join the programme in Second Life at ‘Our Virtual Holland‘. (SLURL)
Or have a look at the Flickr photostream of the photo’s I made at Koninginnedag