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Empowering citizens to make meaningful use of open data

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Open4Citizens (Empowering citizens to make meaningful use of open data)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-06-30

This project was aiming at empowering citizens to seize the opportunities offered by the availability of open data to address needs related to social sustainability.

The initial aim of the project was to empower citizens to actively use open data to design new urban services. During the course of the project it became clear that the contribution this project could add should not only address citizens, but also to public servant, institutions and data owners, in order to generate local ecosystem within which new ways of using open data could be envisaged, that could generate new services or integrate existing services.

For this reason the project team made sure that the group of participants in the second cycle of hackathons (the first one was organised in the previous reporting period) covered a broad range of actors that could be interested in the development of open data-based services.

Another objective that became clearer in this project was the need to open and publish new datasets. Although public administrations are supposed to publish all kind of open data in their competences, many public servants are not aware of the potential of open data and do not know what kind of data they own, what kind of format should be used for the publication and which way the data could be aggregated to be useable. The activity of the project team has been essential for making sure this objective was addressed, in view of the utilisation of the data in the hackathons.

The team also worked at the definition of reference points (OpenDataLabs) in which the culture of desiging with open data could be promoted, both among the data owners (institutions, private companies) and among the possible users (SME, citizens, students)

Finally, in this period, the project team worked for the replication of the O4C methodology and to scale up the experiment of the O4C hackathon, by creating a European Network of Open Data Labs (NOODL.EU) which will hopefully be activated through a COST Action.
During the second period of the project the pilots worked for the organisation of the second cycle of hackathons. Some of the pilots (Rotterdam, Karlstad) kept the theme of the first hackathon, addressing different issues, but extending the existing network of actors. Other pilots instead proposed new themes and aggregated a different group of stakeholder around the theme. In some case (Spain, Italy) a number of related hackathons where organised, which helped refining the hackathon methodology.

As for the first hackathon cycle, the procedure for the organisation of the hackathon was based on a three-phases structure: pre-hack, hackathon event and post-hack. The pre-hack phase aimed at defining the hackathon theme, finding datasets, negotiating the participation of key actors, increasing public awareness about the opportunities offered by the hackathon. The hackathon events were organised over 2 days full immersion work on data; finally the post-hack event was developed in different ways according to the needs emerging in the pilot locations: the activity could consist in the organisation of seminar or workshops to develop the outcomes of the hackathon event or could consist in a number of meetings with relevant institutions and technical experts, to work on the disclosure of datasets, integration with existing services and technical development of the solution.

At the same time, the team worked on the tools to support the hackathons, namely the Hackathon Toolkit and the Citizens’ Data Toolkit, which were tested in different occasions and were finalised in a format that could be used by other hackathon organisers.

The activity related to the dissemination and scalability of the O4C model mainly consisted in the organisation of a number of events, the most important of which was a workshop organised within the CAPSSI event in Rome (June 2018) in which the main outcomes of the project were presented, together with the NOODL.EU network.
The main impact the project had consisted in the activation of a number of institutional bodies (public administrations, business offices), local institutions and citizens, around the theme of open data. This is expected to have a positive impact on the diffusion of a culture of open data, which is originating new initiatives, beyond the project’s funding period.

Working by hackathons is becoming a widespread approach to innovation and the toolkit developed by the project team is supporting the integration of data-related activities into hackathons. This is expected to provide results, not only in business oriented hackathons, but also in educational activities. Some of the academic partners (namely AAU and Politecnico di Milano) are indeed integrating such methodology in their curricular activities.

Finally the first OpenDataLabs are being opened in Milano, Barcelona, Copenhagen and Karlstad, following different organisational and business models and addressing different target groups. The creation of the European Network of Open Data Lab will be an opportunity to put together knowledge about open data and the new culture of designing with data, with the expected result to promote a generation of new solutions, based on data and open to citizens.