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Open Data Use Cases From Germany and Switzerland

This blog post focuses on some of the open data projects that our clients in Germany and Switzerland are working on.

Marketing , Opendatasoft
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In the past, we have frequently reported on open data examples from France – so it is now time to have a closer look at our German-speaking Opendatasoft customers, who have seen a lot of change in recent years.

Let us start in Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg: At the beginning of this year, they went online with an open data portal, catching the attention of the local press. Inspired by the data visualizations on the portal, the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten picked up the reuse concept of open data and integrated an interactive map of local primary schools into their article.

However, primary schools are not the only topic that Potsdam presented on its portal. The state capital published numerous plans regarding infrastructure, which are shown in localized versions and can even be downloaded. An interesting example is the bicycle route concept for the target network. This data set lists the individual route sections and presents the planned activities, including their respective priority, on a map. Citizens of Potsdam can therefore easily track how the bicycle path network will grow in the years to come.

Would you like to know which building projects the city council is planning in your neighborhood? Potsdam presents itself as transparent and attractively displays its building plans to citizens on the Potsdam Portal: Users can navigate on a map and select the parts of the city for which the state capital has developed impressive plans. A single click on an area provides the user with additional information and a link that leads to further information and the specific plans.

Showing localized data is also an important issue for the city of Dormagen in North Rhine Westphalia. The city regularly updates its homepage with maps that may, for example, show the location of table tennis facilities. In addition to providing these data sets, the municipality strives to provide background information on specific topics to provide a context for such data. Thus, for example, the chronology of the “Stolpersteine” (stumbling blocks) in Dormagen – memorials for the victims of the Nazis – describes how a citizen’s application resulted in a council decision and the installation of the Stolpersteine in Dormagen.

The Dormagen Portal also provides automatically updated datasets. Every night towards midnight, the data on visits to the official municipal website are updated. It is easy for users to analyze these visits: and it is not surprising that most visitors come from Germany. It may be somewhat more surprising that the most “Activities per visit” were performed by visitors from Finland. Maybe some Finnish citizens from the north are considering a move to Dormagen?

In Mannheim, the preferences of parents for specific first names for their children can be tracked. The name “Sophie” twice managed to reach first place among the most common female first names. For boys, “Alexander”, “Leon” and “Elias” have all been in first place at various times. The Mannheim open data Portal also attracted the attention of the students in the Public Management course presented by Prof. Dr. Müller-Török at the University for Public Administration and Finance in Ludwigsburg. They analyzed the portal to compile guidelines for decision-makers in public administration.

There is also considerable open data activity taking place in the private sector – particularly in Switzerland. There the Swisscom telecommunications company portal published informative data sets on Swiss communication behavior as well as on people flows. Users can, for example, see where most visitors to Zurich railway station are located during the morning rush hour between 8 and 9 am. The data are anonymized and only published in aggregated form once specific data volumes have been reached, in order to comply with data protection laws and make it impossible to draw conclusions regarding individuals.

Those looking for really large data sets will find them at the Swiss Post Office. It publishes, for example, messenger information – a dataset comprising more than 1.8 million lines. Other datasets are also used as sources for analysis: for example, only a few days after the launch of the portal last autumn, Grünenfelder Zumbach – a consulting company – used the access points of the post office to publish an analysis of the Swiss post office network on Github.

The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) use open data to provide visual appeal: The company published a dataset of railway station images, which users can already admire on the portal. Users who wonder what these railway stations might have looked like forty or fifty years ago will also find a suitable dataset with historical images. This might be an interesting diversion while waiting for a train. Current rail traffic information can also be tracked on the portal and automatically updated every five minutes.

One of the aims of open data is to make use of previously published data to create new or improved services. For some datasets, such as the one with “emergency exits” on Swiss railway tracks, widespread publication is evidently very desirable. The potential reuse of other datasets might not always be that obvious. However, our experience has certainly taught us that any open dataset has the potential of being used as the basis for the next big idea and innovation.

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