Share & Inspire: Basel-Stadt's Data Story

GovTech Data Stories

July 29, 2020

Reading time: 5 min




The Open Government Data Basel-Stadt (OGD) team is convinced that data sharing is necessary to build the future of our society. Let's hear it from them!

It seemed that whenever I ran into Claudia, my coworker who specializes in Switzerland, she had something to say about her customers in Basel. "It's a really dynamic city, and the people I work with are extremely motivated by open data. They're always looking for new ways to improve their services." Curious, I decided to arrange for an interview to see for myself! 


During my interview with Jonas Eckenfels (below), it didn't take long to see that Claudia was right. For the OGD (Open Government Data Basel-Stadt) team, data sharing is a fundamental building block of the society of tomorrow. A society in which public services provide for absolute transparency, and a society in which citizens are eager to capitalize on the information that is shared with them. 

OK, no more spoilers...let's hear from Jonas himself!


Hello Jonas! I thought we'd start with something easy...What does your job entail?

As Head of OGD's "Consulting & Compliance" Department, my job is to help public agencies get started with their open data projects. I motivate them to publish their data, and offer technical and legal advice to make the process as simple as possible.


What made you decide to embark on the open data adventure?

Our portal was launched in November 2019. The nationwide Open Data Swiss portal already existed. The swiss portal is great, but it fitted not well enough to what we needed as it only provided a catalog of metadata. So we decided to launch our own portal to really present data in all its glory. We looked at a number of solutions and finally went with Opendatasoft. 


What is the main purpose of your portal?

Among other things, we hope to: 

  • reach the largest possible audience with our portal and encourage everyone to make use of its data; and 
  • use our portal to encourage local governments to publish their own data. Of course, our ultimate goal is to develop our catalog and eventually launch more projects.


Have there been any snags along the way?

Let's just say we really had our work cut out for us! It's not always easy to persuade employees to share their data. Some workers don't see the point and would rather save themselves the time and effort. Others fear they'll be asked questions they cannot answer. Fortunately, by using concrete examples to demonstrate the value of data sharing, we're often able to convince them. 


Is this reluctance changing over time?

Yes, things are moving in the right direction. More and more public authorities are seeking our help to publish their data. However, there are still many departments that are not yet familiar with open data.


Have you noticed any positive effects since opening your portal?

Society seems to be becoming more and more "data-driven," especially when it comes to private individuals and the media. People are using data to create projects for the greater good. This page, for example, features graphs based on mobility data gathered during the pandemic. It confirms a growing trend: many Swiss residents are actually quite interested in data. We communicate with them regularly on Twitter.


What is your favorite data set?

I really like this unique data set provided by the police. It shows all the tickets that have been handed out in Basel-Stadt, as well as the circumstances of each situation. I think it's great that the police share this kind of information. It's transparent and important. 


Do you have any projects in the works?

We're currently working on publishing data on elections and voting behavior. We're also looking at an extremely specific demographic data set and a data set related to the handling of waste in the city.


Do you think Basel can be called a "smart city?" 

I think we're on the right track! There are certainly many initiatives that make a strong case. OGD has, for example, launched the "Smart Climate - plug & sense" project for which 200 sensors have been set up in the area to measure climate-related data. The sensors send data directly to our portal. Other "smart" initiatives can be found on the Smart City Lab website, which is run by SBB and the Canton of Basel-Stadt.


We've only just started and we've got a long way to go. I would like to see public agencies invest more time and money in digitization and open data. It really is worth it.



Do you have any tips for other cities that are looking to improve their public services?

My advice is simple: share your data and be willing to spend money on an open data project. All communities should publish their data. After all, that's how new innovations see the light of day.


One final question: What do you like most about your job?

I'm lucky to work with people from all backgrounds on constantly evolving topics in a dynamic sector. I also enjoy making data visible and improving the transparency of public authorities.



Thank you very much Jonas! The digital transformation of Basel is fascinating and will no doubt inspire other cities in Switzerland...and beyond.


See you back here soon for more "datadventures!"


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