Speech by the Mayor of Limassol, Mr Andreas Christou, at the open data event of the HOMER European program, organized by the SBLA at Amathus Hotel, on Tuesday, 9th September 2014 at 09.00.
First of all I would like to welcome everybody in Limassol and especially our guests from other regions or countries, participating in this very important Open Data event.
Open central and local government data, is a tremendous resource that is as yet largely untapped. The government collects a vast quantity of high-quality data as part of its ordinary working activities. If this data is made open, it can have huge potential benefits.
Open data policy has rapidly spread across the globe. Information generated by public administrations and public sector bodies, including local government, is a key resource for the knowledge society, given its quality and variety. Therefore it is widely accepted that public sector information constitutes a valuable raw material which can be re-used by third parties in added-value information products and services.
Here in Limassol we have made over the last few years considerable efforts to enhance the availability and reuse of public information to our citizens and our visitors, but still, there is a lot to be done in opening public sector data. All the municipalities of Greater Limassol area have created their own web portal, where our citizens and tourists can obtain freely, any information about our city, its history, places of interest, and much more valuable information.
Now we are entering into the era of Public Sector Information and we are working to expand and enhance the availability of local government data for reuse by the public. In this respect we are working very closely with the Cyprus Technical University, the Sewerage Board of Limassol Amathus, and other Bodies including NGO’s, creating a useful open database about Limassol, covering a great deal of issues. With the Cyprus Technical University, we are collecting data about nearly every aspect of history, the economic, social, cultural and business activities in our city, over the last decades. We have created a very useful and quite interesting data base of information and data about our community which gradually, has started to be freely available to all members of the public, at no charge. Now, these information and data, are still being collected and we are working towards making them more easily accessible and reusable.
With the Sewerage Board of Limassol Amathus we are working together in order to incorporate into the SBLA open Data Portal, some related data which are already collected by the local authorities, concerning issues related with the public health, the environment and the services related to SBLA activities.
There are many areas where we can expect open data to be of value, and there are many examples of how it has been used already exist. There are also many different groups of people and organisations who can benefit from the availability of open data, including government itself.
At the same time it is impossible to predict precisely how and where value will be created in the future. Part of the beauty of open government data is that it is impossible to predict precisely how it will be used to create value. The nature of innovation is that, developments often appear in unlikely places. However, it is generally accepted that it has a positive effect on various levels.
For example, it can be argued that open data enables citizen oversight of their governments and addresses information asymmetries, enabling citizens, as voters to better control elected officials as their agents in power. We are aware of many examples of very good projects of Open Data reuse all over the European Union and of various websites tracking many public information activities, in order to assist the open public to see what exactly is happening, and provide an opportunity of a real contribution in the decision making process.
Also, through open data, our citizens can gain more detailed, and personalised, information on public services, and can make more informed choices about which services to select from the ‘marketplace’ of services – thus using market mechanisms to drive better services.
Open government data can help us make better decisions in our own life, or enable us to be more active in society.
Open data supports groups, made up of citizens, civil society organisations and entrepreneurs to work together with each other, and with the state, to improve policy making and practice. New combinations of data can create new knowledge and insights, which can lead to whole new fields of application.
Most importantly, open data is also of value for government itself. For example, it can increase government efficiency, because by as much as possible of the related data for re-use, the number of questions received are considerably dropped, reducing work-load and costs, reducing considerably the questions for civil servants to answer, as the public knows where the relevant data can be found.
This untapped potential can be unleashed if we turn public government data into open data. This will only happen, if there are no restrictions to its re-use by others. Every restriction will exclude people from re-using the public data, and make it harder to find valuable ways of doing that. For the potential to be realized, public data needs to be open.
Please accept my warm congratulations for this initiative and wish you every success in this project. I also wish you a nice stay in our city and try to enjoy as much as possible of Limassol.