Süddeutschen Zeitung of 25.12.2017 published an interesting article concerning the benefit of Open Data which has not been recognized by the Public Administration for a long time.
One of the first mobile local traffic apps was developed by students in Berlin in 2008 and was in great demand, but shortly after appearing on the market it was prohibited by the local traffic provider. The users protested strongly, so shortly after, the app was allowed again but only with the addition of a warning that the app was not an official app of the traffic provider.
This short story allows a glimpse into the treatment of open data in this country. In the meantime, there are many similar apps in many cities, also supra-regional, but the usage of open data is still not very common here. Besides being an innovation obstacle, it also limits citizens’ access to relevant information that would otherwise be available via open data (for instance, disabled access being restricted at a train station). When publishing such data the following should be taken into account:
- The data will continue to be collected by or by order of organizations owned by Public Authorities and they will continue to collect it for their own purposes
- The data are often exchanged between these organizations in standardized processes, it is therefore possible, without additional cost, to also make the data available to the public
- The economic benefit of OpenData is beyond any debate, particularly in the field of traffic and transport
- The attitude of denial in Germany is an obstacle for the "Verkehrswende" (change of traffic paradigm) because intermodal traffic alternatives including Public Transport can only be determined if the relevant data is made available
Data are part of the digital infrastructure. Only if they are publicly available can they be used for the development of new services by third parties. This is valid not only for traffic data, but also for data from City Administrations. (For instance, number of inhabitants and inhabitants structure, traffic volume, noise and emission exposure, parking, bicycle ways, accessibilities for disabled and much more.) The data could be the basis of new, beneficial IT applications on mobile devices and computers, e.g. for real estate portals or research institutions. Such apps could provide insights which are also very useful for the communities themselves. A cascade of direct and indirect benefits could be created. For instance, the Berlin application "BrokenLifts"informs citizens about accessibility in railway stations for disabled persons and mothers with pushchairs. There are many examples of the benefits of applications like these, including in the planning process of the Public Authorities, for instance in using available statistical data for the planning of future route networks. Many other countries are much more advanced in this respect. An important reason for this in Germany is that there’s a lack of political will. In this country we are slowly beginning to understand the immense value those "mountains of figures" can provide. In Hamburg there is already a Transparency Law (Transparenzgesetz) which determines that everything not considered "secret" or subject to privacy protection (mostly personal data) has been made available to the public. Since spring 2017, there is a nationwide Open Data Law which still needs to be complemented by provincial laws. It is a central and important part of the famous digitalization strategy and needs appropriate resources. Without the resources it will remain mere tokenism.