Open Data Stories 2019/20

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Before and during the Opendata.ch/2020 Forum we asked you to submit your open data success stories and failures. We think it is important to collect and publish these stories to show what our community has been up to, to reflect upon the successes to realise how far we have come and to think about our failures to pinpoint room for improvements.

During our Opendata.ch/2020 Forum on June 23, we have received fourteen stories from you. If you would like to add your own story to our collection of successes, you can do so by using the following form: opendata.ch/stories 2020

Findability of Open Government Data

To be valuable open (government) data has to be easily found and used a lot. Open data is published to be used and the easier it is to find a data set, the more it will be used.

Three of your stories feature the search for Open Government Data:

«With the Relaunch of the Website of the Canton of Zurich in the beginning of July 2020 all Open Government Data of Cantonal Organizations will be findable on our Website, too.»

«Road Names have been published as open data: Official index of streets (Federal Office of Topography swisstopo) Official dataset for “official index of streets”, ID196, as per the catalogue of basic geodata in accordance with Swiss Federal Law. The official index of streets includes all of the street names that have been officially declared in the Swiss Federal Register of Buildings and Dwellings (RBD). Responsibility for the completeness of the names in the official index of streets is governed by cantonal provisions.  Link: https://map.geo.admin.ch/?lang=en&topic=ech&bgLayer=ch.swisstopo.swissimage&layers_opacity=0.85&layers=ch.swisstopo.amtliches-strassenverzeichnis&E=2666136.89&N=1239228.80&zoom=12 and https://www.cadastre.ch/de/services/service/registry/street.html»

«I needed a data set to practice ANOVA and went to opendata.swiss to find one that would be suited for the task; I gave up after 90 min. I found the GitHub repository on COVID-19 data from the statistics department of the Canton of Zurich very reliable and useful for data mining.»

COVID-19

COVID-19 was the event that has been impacting all our lives since early 2020. The publication and use of data sets on the pandemic, as well as the fact that the importance of open data suddenly became visible is a success

«The COVID-19 data we gathered on GitHub was a huge success. It really showed the power of open data and a lot of people (including leading news outlets like NZZ and SRF) relied on that data when the BAG could not deliver. For the combination of different OGD publishers working together, joined by amazing people from the open data community to work together on this time of crisis was very inspiring. It showed, that we can “pull it off” when we have to. We were there and helped each other and created this amazing dataset for everyone to use. I think I will never forget the past 3 months and what they did to advance the open data movement in Switzerland.»

«Thanks to an excellent collaboration, we were able to open up our COVID19-data as open data much faster than expected. It was a really good example of who working together and examples of best practice helped to foster opening up data!»

«COVID-19 has raised awareness for timely, comprehensive, and machine-readable open data, which everyone is allowed to freely re-use.»

«Happy thought: the publication of data related to COVID-19 sensitized some of my friends to government data issues. In this context, it was nice to see individuals creating data visualisations for broader audiences, often during their own spare time.»

Open Data Projects

The completion of projects is of course always a success. Here are two examples of open data projects that were advanced in the past year:

«Simply generate coordinates of addresses in Switzerland and display them on a map (Success)  Calculating the coordinates of the addresses of teams, clubs, customers or any other group in a simple way and displaying the corresponding points on a map – that was the user-driven request we had again and again on geo.admin.ch. 
We have created a simple Excel file that makes this possible:

  1. Download the XLSX file: http://cms.geo.admin.ch/www.geo.admin.ch/kml/geocoder.xlsx 
  2. Open in Excel, follow any instructions for “Activate content”
  3. Fill in the addresses in column 1 from line 5 onwards. Click on Enter to calculate the coordinates.
  4. Select column 9 and copy the contents into a text editor – Save this new TXT file as a KML file (filename.kml)
  5. Go to
  6. and click on “Advanced Tools” on the left and then “Import”. 
  7. Click on “local” and upload your KML file. This simple file is downloaded by many government bodies, fire departments, postal service officials etc… and did not cost an hour to set up and publish on https://www.geo.admin.ch/de/news/aktuell.detail.news.html/geo-internet/news2019/news20190307.html »

«I worked on quite an exciting project at the Open Tourism Data Hackdays last year which analysed the volumes of pedestrian traffic. This was exemplary both in its use of Data Science and in the way that the hackathon team – supported by the association fussverkehr.ch which helped us access the data – petitions cities to implement foot traffic counters and share the data openly. This kind of analysis, by the way, was quite critical a few months later in attempting to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Swiss towns, and work on the open-source project that resulted at our Hackdays continues.  For my part, I am keen to see a #CivicUrbanism interest group start within Opendata.ch to promote projects of this type.»

Challenges

By facing challenges we always learn a lot. Here are some of the challenges you told us about:

«I have invited cultural institutions to open up some datasets, offering counsel, guidance, and practical assistance, but very few responded to my call.»

«I noticed (once again): Getting data cleaned in JavaScript is really, really hard.»

Personal growth and networking

Learning new things, making new connections, and expanding our horizons are some of the successes you shared with us. 

«I learned to work with WikiData in an introduction course by OpenGLAM and added data points regarding female directors of museums, which was fun and felt good! 🙂 This is definitely something that I want to do more often in the future and encourage others to do as well.»

«My success story as a new specialist librarian for research data management: I got to know people who are willing to share as much of their data as possible. They want it to be citable, they want others to work on it, they want others to analyse it. Unfortunately, it became also a bit of a failure story because difficulties arose in technical issues. Where to store it, where to publish it, how to manage access. Together, I want to give them the best support and they should have the opportunity to become seen and recognized in their field by publishing data. We share a vision for that.»

«Met a bunch of inspiring people passionate about Diversity & Inclusion in Open Data at the ODF conference»

Open Data Student Awards

Of course, we also consider the entries for our Open Data Student Awards as success stories. You can read all about the past winners and nominees on our previous blog posts: 2018 | 2019 | 2020