Gavà, Spain: Thriving and Efficient Accountability
In 2011, the mayor of Gavà, Joaquin Balsera, hired City Manager Eduard Gil Carbo with the expectation that he would address three main priorities: improve the City’s finances, launch efficiency programs, and drive toward thriving accountability. Eduard knew there was only one way to accomplish each of these directives at once: open data. But, finding the right open data software proved to be a challenge. According to Eduard, “A tool powerful enough to accomplish our objectives doesn’t exist locally. We struggled to find software that linked with our mission, until we found Socrata.”
To find the right open data partner, Eduard first identified the open data sites that accomplished Gavà's dreams. “We looked at the sites of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Montgomery County, just to name a few,” he says. “They were all running on Socrata. So, we began researching Socrata. The Socrata team engaged with us and developed a demonstration portal that enabled Gavà to implement the portal three weeks later. We discovered Socrata improves transparency quickly. We wanted to put our budget and spending data, invoices, and tax information online, making it available to our citizens. Socrata does this,” he finishes.
Eduard saw the turning tide in Europe. Open data is all over the news and transparency is a necessity for the smartest governments. But, the options for open data in Spain are limited. “Locally, we had just two choices available. One tool allowed you to open your data. The other helped with financial transparency. No tool in Spain could do both,” says Eduard. He dreamed of being the first Spanish city to follow an Anglo-Saxon transparency model. “As I read newspapers and magazines geared toward city managers, Socrata’s name kept appearing as the industry expert in open data,” he says.
Eduard understands the best way to communicate data is through visualizations. He searched for a platform that allowed users to simply create beautiful data visualizations. “Socrata is the market leader, with an easy-to-use platform that was easy to integrate with our ERP systems,” he says. “It was the obvious choice.”
Raquel Sanchez, Gavà's current mayor, believes in and gives strong political support to develop the new City project. Sanchez wants Gavà to become an Open Government evangelist.
Eduard faced questions from other department leaders, mostly centered on their fears about publishing data and privacy laws. “Here in Spain, and all throughout Europe, we have a strong focus on privacy when it comes to data. It’s a tricky issue,” Eduard explains. “We had our lawyers help us determine if it was possible to launch Socrata in our city. They helped us figure out what information we could publish. Once we received permission from our lawyers, we moved forward toward our launch.”
Gavà moved forward quickly, launching the platform in just under three months. The response has been positive. “We have heard from public managers, community managers, and data journalists. They are astonished by the platform,” says Sanchez. In 2014, Gavà will participate in a conference and will showcase the City’s accomplishments in transparency and open data, which have put Gavà on the map in Spain. “We are a small village of only 46,000,” says Sanchez. “We don’t have a lot of power and rarely make news. But, our open data program has made others take notice of what we are doing. That makes us very proud.”
Where does Gavà City hopes to go from here? “We will have all the main public data available in the portal,” Sanchez explains. “We will begin to develop new digital services, without the cost from the private sector, and we hope to see the volume of requests for public data, via phone or email, decrease.” Sanchez is also excited to use open data to improve the knowledge of management inside the organization, giving each department a view into what others are working on. Most of all, Gavà has become an enthusiastic advocate for open data and Socrata. “We recommend Socrata to everyone who will listen to us,” Eduard says. “I like it because it’s very easy to implement, it answered my questions about transparency, and the team is wonderful. The Socrata crew we work with is professional, helpful, and available at all hours. Most of all, I appreciate their focus on results and the way they clearly believe in and enjoy what they do,” Eduard finishes.