The massive amounts of data that technology generates – from the social web to public records – can offer valuable insight in identifying social issues and even improving public services. Known as Big Data, the information must be however processed in a way that yields useful patterns and conclusions. Enhanced transparency in government The concept of open government data, which focuses on transparency, accountability and reusability of data held by a government, requires new solutions for using Open Data to the benefit of the public and the public sector. The EU-funded YDS project, which stands for Your Data Stories, developed a highly customisable online platform to exploit data in a spirit of transparency, collaboration and participation. “YDS can support users to interconnect, search, analyse, explore and understand available data to extract insights, facts and material for supporting data-led stories,” says project coordinator Anna Triantafillou. From a technical perspective, YDS (Your Data Stories) represents a semantic data model for combining different data sources. “It offers an easy and user-friendly solution allowing the drilling down, visual exploration and combining of data into meaningful stories,” explains Triantafillou. The YDS infrastructure involves visualisation apps ranging from web applications and powerful interfaces that help users exploit data to mobile and social media applications that inform citizens and gather their feedback. From public procurement to international trade Importantly, the YDS platform has been piloted and validated through three different usage scenarios in three European countries. The first pilot, titled Follow Public Money, advanced fiscal transparency and participation in Greece through smart personalised re-purposing by citizens and businesses of large volumes of publicly available data related to public procurement. The pilot was based on the open data set provided by the Greek Transparency Programme Initiative (Diavgeia) and Greece’s National Strategic Reference Framework 2007-2013. “The Diavgeia project represents the most progressive transparency effort on a global scale, based on comprehensive, proactive, real-time and machine-processable open data provision,” highlights Triantafillou. The second pilot, dubbed Tracking Development Aid and International Trade, analysed international development cooperation and its relations to international trade from a Dutch point of view. The scope of the pilot was extended to include many European countries. In parallel, the third pilot on Cross-Europe Financial Comparability focused on the comparability of financial data across EU Member States to examine data at EU level, national level and local level. It particularly studied the city of Galway in Ireland and compared it to other EU cities. YDS can also exploit the social web to enhance the use of Big Data. “The project’s proposed solutions can explore and capitalise on the synergy between the semantic and social web,” reveals Triantafillou. The project coordinator points out that the social web can provide insights into public interest regarding a certain topic, for example a construction project, helping to assess its impact on society. “Interesting analyses, ranging from ‘top-10’ lists to news stories, can be pushed to the social web, helping to raise interest in specific and usually human-driven data aspects,” she adds. Better articles and media stories One of the most interesting features of YDS is that it can bring data from different sources together to enrich a story. “Citizens or journalists know that interesting stories can emerge from exploring open governmental data sets, and they want to use the data to tell these stories,” notes Triantafillou. YDS ultimately serves as an interactive canvas enabling citizens and journalists to find the hidden stories in data. The latest version of the YDS platform was released in January 2018 after successful validation involving the three test case scenarios. The platform will no doubt be very useful in the media sector, such as for journalists and news organisations looking to identify, investigate and create news stories.
YDS, transparency, Big Data, social web, media, open government data, Diavgeia, news stories