How to use data?

Software developers, journalists, researchers and active citizens benefit largely from public data catalogues and databases. Engaging with open data is not as difficult as one might think! Open data has no boundaries – everybody can use it for their own purposes by following these easy steps.

Picture: Marker Wizards.

1. Find data

How did my backyard look like 80 years ago? What municipal decisions are currently under debate? How much of my tax contributions have been used in the development of this web service? Search for interesting data in the HRI data catalogue – or give us your suggestions for opening data that genuinely interests you. Think about combining different datasets to create something new and intriguing!

For example: The cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen published their financial statements with hundreds of thousands of rows of data – what would you do with this data? Perhaps combine them with the map of regional public services

2. Create or find an idea for an app

How to utilise interesting data? You can find a useful overview of existing apps, web services, visualizations and mobile services in the HRI app gallery. You can also browse the international catalogue of apps for ideas and make a localized version for your own city. If you have a good idea but lack the time or skills to develop your concept further; share it with others here

For example: The six biggest cities in Finland have listed some app ideas (in Finnish) at the website.

3. Build your app

Breathe life into data: visualize it, conduct academic research, build a web service, or engage in data journalism. Open data has a variety of tools for different topics and areas of interest. You can ask for help from experienced data users for instance at Finnish Open Data Ecosystem group at Facebook. According to research the majority of developers building apps with open data are researchers, freelancers and private application developers. Also, there are a small number of firms engaging with open data as they have spotted its potential.

Successful examples of apps created with open data are the winners of the Apps4Finland, Open Finland Challenge and Databusiness Challenge competitions: BlindSquare, Miils, Eventmore and Moose.

4. Publish & share your app on the web

Picture: Marker Wizards.

Don’t keep your app just for yourself. Value for your visualization or web service is only created after it is being used. Publishing your app on your website is the first step. Next, add your creation to the HRI app gallery, engage in internationally organized open data app competitions, and promote your work through social media.

For example: Journalists across the world are very excited about data journalism. The British Guardian is a forerunner in this emerging field. Take a look at their data journalism approach on their data blog. The Finnish national newspaper Helsingin Sanomat has also outlined its stance towards open data and established a data desk unit.

5. Gather feedback & interact

Services using open data provide users with new experiences and information. A great newspaper article can bring numbers and data to life, a nifty or ingenious mobile service can make your everyday life easier. Open data apps have the potential to facilitate social discussions and to increase the transparency and reach of democracy.

For example: The Päätökset service (tr. “decisions”) makes the City of Helsinki’s decision-making process available for everyone in a transparent and easy manner.