One recurring problem with open data, as well as with other tasks within the Swedish public sector, is the lack of coordination and national standardisation. It makes it simply too difficult for all municipalities and public administrations, especially the smaller ones, to get started. Moreover, the lack of interest in some places may also be a problem.
In the absence of government guidance, it is up to each organisation that has a legal obligation to publish data to take up the task by itself. Of course, this would be easier if they joined forces with others who share the same obligation. Västra Götaland has recognised this and launched an ambitious project.
– We are working to facilitate the digitalisation of Västra Götaland so that open data becomes a natural part of the way organisations use their information assets. This will create jobs as well as new services for the public, says Tore Johnsson, regional coordinator for digitalisation in Region Västra Götaland.
Currently, 25 of the region’s 49 municipalities have joined the project, with more to follow. More are expected to join during 2023. The work started with a preliminary study two years ago. A year later, a decision was made to launch a three-year initiative.
What is actually being done?
– We offer free support and advice from several experts to get you started with open data and own a portal on which open data can be published. Furthermore, we offer free briefings and consultation at cost price, says Tore Johnsson.
This addresses perhaps the three biggest barriers to working with open data: the lack of expertise for getting started, a platform for publishing and an opportunity to display and distribute open data. The platform in use is MetaSolutions’ EntryScape.
During the summer 2021, six 2.5-hour digital briefings, or “mingles” as Tore Johnsson calls them, were held to provide information on open data. A total of 127 people attended, suggesting that there is genuine interest.
– One source of inspiration is the efforts made in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, where even small municipalities are participating.
Lombardy region in Italy is particularly interesting, since there are some very small municipalities in Italy. It turns out that it is small organisations and municipalities that have the most to gain from this type of cooperation, since they usually lack the resources to develop their own solutions. This also applies to Sweden, which is why it is encouraging to see that the municipality of Dals-Eds, with around 4.800 inhabitants, was the first municipality to join Västra Götaland’s open data project alongside the founders Gothenburg City, Skövde Municipality and Region Västra Götaland.
The ultimate goal of the project is that the work with open data will have taken off in earnest and be able to sustain itself, thus nullifying the purpose of the project itself. Before then, there are different objectives, such as having 30 to 35 municipalities joining within three years. Another objective, or wish, which is not up to Tore Johnsson and his colleagues to achieve themselves, is to contribute to nationwide coordination on open data.
– We would be happy to help scale up the work to the national level, with nationwide standards. This could be accomplished quite easily by adding some additional features to the work we already have completed. We see no problem with doing this on a government mandate.
Finally, what data is there from Västra Götaland to view and use? You can find it on Dataportal Väst. It contains data on the environment, population, education, culture, sports, and more general information about the region, Sweden and a lot more.