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Looking back at EU Open Data Days 2021: ‘Data for people’

Explore five initiatives highlighting the importance of citizen engagement and user-centric projects


Last November, the Publications Office of the European Union organised the first ever EU Open Data Days . Over three days (23-25 November 2021), the event showed the benefits of open data to more than 2300 registered EU public sector representatives, citizens and businesses, under the main motto: ‘shape our future with open data’.

Over 70 speakers from all over the world took the floor in six thematic sessions. Each of these sessions provided an overview of innovative techniques and best practices used in both the private and the public sectors, offering the participants valuable insights into open data and data visualisation techniques and practices.

In a series of news pieces, we are recapping each of these thematic sessions of the EU Open Data Days. The first article of the series focused on the session Creating open data ecosystems’.

In this news piece, we will focus on the second thematic session: ´Data for people`. How can data be used at the benefit of citizens and with a user-focused approach?

Through anonymised and aggregated user-density data from the Facebook Data for Good programme, David Lusseau (Professor of Marine Sustainability at the Technical University of Denmark), assessed that during lockdowns people spent more time in green spaces. Yet, only some cities today provide spatial information and there is no regular access to data or planning to maximise community´s benefits. In his presentation ´The value of nature – the use of greenspaces during SARS-CoV-2 lockdowns`, Mr Lusseau encouraged to make more use of social media data and provide more health, well-being, and infrastructure data at the neighborhood level.

A different city experience is the one of Espoo in Finland, presented by Minna Joensuu (Deputy Research Director for the city of Espoo, Finland) in her speech on ´Best practices from 10 years of open data in the Helsinki region`. Over 10 years, the Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI), the most innovative open-data service in Finland and international leader in the field, has worked on enhancing data quality and built an active community of open-data enthusiasts. Yet, according to Ms Joensuu, more work still needs to be done to augment interoperability and automatise the update of data.

In the presentation ´From a supply-driven towards a more demand-driven open-data policy in the city of Ghent`, Joran Van Daele (Open Data Manager for the city of Ghent, Belgium) underlined how ´people use open data only when you start communicating about it`. This means that if the community is not aware of the existence of open data or of what open data is, its potential will remain unused, and it will be difficult to convince policymakers about the added value.

Antonio Ibáñez Pascual (Head of Transparency and Information Reuse, Governing Council of Castile and Leon, Spain) provided another example of how data can be used at the benefit of citizens in the health sector. His presentation ´Transparency and open data in the service of health in Castile and Leon (Spain)` gave insights into the national dashboard launched by the Governing Council of Castile and Leon to monitor the epidemiological situation of COVID-19 in the region. The portal has become the most visited site of the Governing Council of Castile and Leon and its future ambitions are to create a data-drive culture, with more visualisations and internal re-use.

In the last presentation of the thematic session ´Data for people`, Ahmad Barclay (Census data visualisation led, Office for National Statistics, United Kingdom) explained how, together with his team, he worked on ´making census data open, accessible, useful and engaging for real people`. In particular, he showed four aspects that allowed the public to easily navigate and comprehend the data of the 2021 census of England and Wales and the insights embedded within it. These aspects include exploratory tools, guided experiences, semi-automated output, and games and quizzes to reach a wider audience.

To learn more about the above presentations, visit the EU Open Data Days website, where you can find official press releases, promotional materials, as well as the recordings of all contributions!


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