Helsinki opens a window to its information systems
The information systems register contains a wide variety of data. For example, the ZIMS animal register contains the pedigree and weight of every animal at Helsinki Zoo. Piltti contains the data on contaminated soil, and Acute contains the patient data of Helsinki’s occupational health care.
Helsinki is the first city in Finland to publish a register of its information systems as open data.
“The register is surely interesting for many Helsinki residents in connection of work, hobbies or studies,” says Project Manager Ari Andersin of the City of Helsinki Executive Office.
The maintenance of an information systems register is one of the legal obligations of municipalities.
Normally cities make their public data available at their register offices. Helsinki’s public data has been available online for years, but now the information systems of all Helsinki administrative bodies have been complied in one register, which is also available through HRI. Now anyone can peruse the City public data, even on their home couches if they so wish.
“Open data can generate observations about our organization that we wouldn’t necessarily make ourselves. Citizens could see, for example, that two different information systems are overlapping,” Andersin explains.
The new register will be updated continuously. It is an important tool for the City information management itself. The register reveals what information systems the City’s more than 30 departments and subsidiaries use, what the systems are used for, and what data the systems contain.
Tanja Lahti, who manages the HRI open data service, is happy about the City Executive Office’s initiative.
“The first step to open public data is to find out what data exists,” Lahti says. “Now that we know what data there is available from the City information systems, we can ask citizens what data they would want to have open. Only a fraction of the data on the information systems register is available as open data. On the other hand, we should keep in mind that data can be generated outside systems. Our goal is to make all public data of the City freely available to everybody, naturally without endangering privacy or society.”