Recently I was in Stockholm City Hall attending the mayor’s launch of the second Open Stockholm Award, an open-data competition arranged by the City of Stockholm. For a Swede, it’s extra special to visit the site of the Nobel festivities but on this occasion people were dressed in regular business attire. There wasn’t a single formal gown to admire in the entire Golden Hall. I’ll have to come back some other time for the real deal.

Since the previous competition, held 18 months ago, the number of number data sources available is now up at 100. Even though many of these datasets are in challenging formats for the developers’ community, it’s great that the number of sources is growing. To compare, in Boston, the corresponding number of datasets is 342 and in Berlin it is nearly 800. Over 1100 datasets are available on the New York City open data portal – the largest number for any US city. And that still doesn’t even come close the more than 90,000 datasets released by the US government.

There is great variation in the data released. In Stockholm, new sources includerotemansarkivet – the city registry from 1878-1926- which includes dates of birth, death and settlement in the city. New data sources also include city maps, statistics and financial statements and perhaps more amusingly, data on the frequency of white Christmases. Data has also been released that originates from the Traffic Authority, the Public Transport Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency. Even the digital city museum has released an archive of around 35,000 photos.

Clearly there are vast amounts of data from an almost endless number of categories. It would be really exciting if Stockholm could release data on what data it actually has. Open data on all data sources so to speak. It is easier to be creative if you know what exists. New York City has taken this one step further and established an open data plan outlining what data will be released, when, and by what agency. The City has also passed a law requiring all city agencies to open their data by 2018. San Francisco was first out with a similar law in 2010 and other US cities have followed.

These are all city-by-city initiatives. Shouldn’t similar data, originating in different cities, be released in a coordinated manner? Harmonized APIs across cities would benefit both citizens and the development community. Citizens regularly travel outside of their home bases and would benefit from coordinated services.

Finally, I’d like to share a few inspiring examples from the US and Europe. The smartphone app, Black Sheep, developed for a recent open-data competition in the US, helps home buyers find energy-efficient homes by combining real estate listings with energy efficiency and energy consumption data. The San Francisco Recreation & Parks app exposes the services and facilities maintained by the city, such as playgrounds and picnic tables. The Neighborhood Score app, for the same city, visualizes a health and sustainability rating block-by-block. It is a great example of how multiple, open datasets, in combination, can create something new and unique.

In Berlin, smartphone apps can give you convenient guidance as to where to swim, recycle glass and the location of the many traditional Christmas markets. Here in my own city, a bike-route planner was one of the winners of last year’s Open Stockholm Award. I’m looking forward to learning which open data innovations will progress my city this time round.

Written by Monika Bylehn

In addition to a background in the finance industry and government, Byléhn has more than 10 years’ experience in the telecom industry. Today, Monika is a Networked Society Evangelist and she is responsible for establishing a position of thought leadership for Ericsson on the issue of urban life.