More than a hundred Dutch municipalities release Open Council Data, including all documents of the municipal council – decisions, agendas, motions, amendments and policy documents – easily and collectively accessible. The data is now available for reuse in applications. Today, the first app that reuses the data, WhereGovernment, is launched today.
Strengthen local democracy
Citizens, entrepreneurs, journalists, civil servants, journalists, scientists and all other interested parties can use Open Council Data to check easily what is going on in municipalities around a specific theme. Rural, regional, by municipality or even by neighborhood. In 2015 Open State Foundation, together with the Ministry of the Interior and five municipalities (Heerde, Oude IJsselstreek, Den Helder, Utrecht and Amstelveen), started a pilot to provide access to information as open data. In cooperation with VNG Realisatie and Argu, work was done on standardisation and upscaling. The goal is to strengthen local democracy.
Reusable local government data
The council information was already public, but only available per municipality and often not easy to find or reuse. Of 102 municipalities – including Amsterdam and Utrecht, but also smaller municipalities such as Binnenmaas and Dongen – all council documents can now be found on the Open Council Information website. These documents are available as open data: standardised and reusable. For example, app builders, websites, media and other parties can use and publish the information quickly and easily.
To explore the possibilities of the Open Council Data, VNG Realisatie organised a competition in 2017 to develop the best app: the App Challenge Open Council Information. The first prize went to the webapp WaarOverheid of developer Qollap, which places council information on the map based on the basis of smart algorithms. This allows residents to see what is going on in their neighbourhood – or in a completely different neighbourhood. The app has been further developed with the prize money. From today – in the run-up to the municipal elections of 21 March 2018 – WaarGovernment can be used by everyone. Everything about the app WaarOverheid can be found on waaroverheid.nl.
Robert van Dijk, council clerk of the municipality of Teylingen and chairman of the advisory group Open Council Information, is enthusiastic about the results:
‘We can continue to talk about the theme of open government, but in order to achieve it we have to take action. The information society is a fact. Citizens can access unimaginable information via digital channels, but the government lags behind. And that while we are sitting on a huge amount of data. Society demands transparency from us, we have to get away from the back rooms. This is the instrument for that. In this way we can very effectively strengthen our democracy and make open government and open accountability possible. I see Open Council information as a gold mine. This standardisation is the starting point for upcoming projects and apps. If all municipalities join in later, nobody will have to use information from 380 islands to know which trends are going on. In short: a wonderful project.’
Open Council Information is part of the Digital Agenda 2020 and the Open Government Action Plan of the Netherlands (action point 6) with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) in association with Open State Foundation, the driver of the Open Council Information project, and various local authorities and the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations.