The Thessaloniki Metropolitan Area (greater area covered and directly influenced by Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki) shows unique characteristics, being a cultural, industrial and commercial pole for northern Greece and the Balkan Peninsula. The Municipality of Thessaloniki (MoT) constitutes the administrative centre of the metropolitan area, serving more than 0.5 million citizens. To address administrative, urban planning and environmental issues arising due to the area size and structure, as well as increase government transparency and accountability, the MoT has been an early adaptor of open data initiative.
The MoT developed an INSPIRE compliant Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) in order to improve access to public administration and support the process of making policy and strategic environmental planning. The SDI has been developed under the regulatory context of the Greek Law 3882/2010 which harmonizes the INSPIRE Directive.
The MoT’s SDI was developed using open standards, incorporating all the components of a typical SDI (data, services, metadata, data & service sharing, monitoring & reporting), taking into account Municipality users’ needs. Internal geospatial information management procedures have been reformed to facilitate data capture, maintenance, documentation, publishing and sharing.
Our next step is to incorporate all of the operational software and data in the municipality into a Data-Hub pattern. This will allow us to focus on the expansion of the geospatial-based services we provide to our citizens. By making data available online and in real-time (or near real-time), efficiency will be boosted and information bottlenecks will be eliminated. With data available by way of intuitive apps, residents can play a greater role in shaping their government.
MoT have already launched the Municipality’s Open Data platform (http://opendata.thessaloniki.gr/) where everyone can find our Open Datasets while we are also providing an eService for online, real time, monitoring of the budget’s implementation. The Open Data Portal of the Municipality of Thessaloniki is based on the open source DKAN platform, a Drupal-based version of CKAN, the world’s largest open source publishing platform.
In this endeavor, we are faced with a number of challenges such as:
- Data is often not collected or is incomplete.
- Data is fragmented and scattered among multiple systems and/or departments.
- Data is collected, stored and utilized in different formats and hence is not shareable or readily consumable.
- Data can be inaccurate because of the manual and undefined nature of collection and storage.
- Data ownership is not clear.
A series of initiatives that have already been implemented as well:
- Establish an open data strategy and consistent understanding across City departments
- Thessaloniki Open Data Steering Committee
- Conduct technical training for City staff and stakeholders.
- Organize events to increase engagement amongst data consumers and producers
We have already completed three crowdsourcing competitions in which, besides the citizens’ ideas and applications, we focused on Open Data and invited relevant organizations and the Academic institutes of the city to join these initiatives. The goal is to achieve further improvement in areas such as active citizenship, transparency and accountability, research and internal decision-making.
Key challenges and how were these overcome:
- Under the spectrum of the aforementioned challenges, the Open Data platform and the platform of Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) that have been developed for the Municipality of Thessaloniki, include data, an adequate description of them (metadata), tools for tracking and data recovery (data / metadata catalogues) tools for visualizing geospatial data, a range of services and software that support individual applications.
- As the Thessaloniki GIS continues to expand, it is also important that it remains compliant with the European Union’s (EU) INSPIRE Directive. This is another aspect of engagement with other smart and resilient communities. The INSPIRE Directive has established standards for an EU spatial data infrastructure that expedites the exchange of geospatial data among member nations for the common good, such as the development of Trans European environmental policies. Our next step is to incorporate all of the operational software and data in the municipality into a Data-Hub pattern. This will allow us to focus on the expansion of the geospatial-based services we provide to our citizens. By making data available online and in real-time (or near real-time), efficiency will be boosted and information bottlenecks will be eliminated. With data available by way of intuitive apps, residents can play a greater role in shaping their government.
Key success factors:
- The Authority immediately realised the need for central management of both geospatial and attributive information in order to be assisted to the exercise of their duties, keeping the need for access to quality information as a priority. We integrated Information, Knowledge Management, Process Standardisation Systems, and business operations with an enterprise Geographical Information System (GIS), through which geospatial information lifecycle was predefined, standardised and maintained. By using open data, the decision makers have ‘real time’ information that helps the decision making. The public administrations substantially benefit from the reduction of uncertainty in data and information used to make decisions. The usage of the Municipality’s Spatial Data Infrastructure makes it possible to share more effectively information between public bodies, professionals, researchers and general users.
- The city also participates in the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) for Smart Cities and Communities. The partnership supports the implementation of Information and Communication Technologies with sustainable energy and transportation initiatives to develop innovative solutions for the environmental, societal, and health challenges facing European cities. The goal is to create scalable and transferable solutions in support of the European Union’s 20/20/20 climate action objectives, which includes the reduction of energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, poor air quality, and roadway congestion.
The Digital Strategy of the Municipality, consists of:
- Interconnected city
- A city for everyone
- A city that uses its data
- Participatory city
- A city that supports Digital Innovation
For the last 2,5 years, one of our main initiatives is to establish an open data strategy and consistent understanding across City departments. In late 2014, Thessaloniki was selected to join the Rockefeller Foundation’s newly formed 100 Resilient Cities program. According to the foundation, “City resilience reflects the overall capacity of a city to survive, adapt, and thrive no matter what kinds of chronic stresses or acute shocks they experience.” In Thessaloniki, it was determined that the city has resilience challenges that include aging infrastructure, growing unemployment, environmental degradation, influx of refugees, and natural disaster response. From this list, Thessaloniki created a resilience strategy blueprint to deal with these challenges in an integrated way and mitigate their impact. The goals of both the 100 Resilient Cities and the Smart Cities and Communities initiatives reinforce one another. Open data is part of the EIP’s smart communities’ initiative and fundamental to Thessaloniki’s future Data-Hub implementation. The Municipality of Thessaloniki has embraced open government, so that we can maintain transparency to our residents and part of this effort is open data.
How long has the project been operational: Since 2008, with milestones 2014, 2016 & 2017
How long the project took from concept approval to implementation: The project began in 2008 and continues today.
Funding: Municipality’s budget.
Total project cost:
- Improve my City (IMC)
- Open Data Portal
- Open Budget
- Apps4Thessaloniki-Tourism Edition
- 36000 euros for the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) platform development
- 20000 euros for Copernicus Data Up to SDI
- Crowd sourcing application for Monuments (favourite point of the city)
Picture courtesy of: City of Thessaloniki