Lombardia Open Data: Designed for Growth
Located on the border of Switzerland in northern Italy, the Lombardia region has been known traditionally for its alpine beauty. But, in recent years, it has become one of the most robust business centers in Europe. And when it comes to technology, Lombardia’s government leaders want only the best.
“We chose Socrata’s platform because we didn’t want the data to just be available, we wanted the citizens of Lombardia to be able to interact with it—make maps, do analysis, and share what they discovered,” says Oscar Sovani, Regione Lombardia’s Leader of Digital Agenda.
Data Citizens Can Use
Like most open data portals, the Regione Lombardia’s dati.lombardia.it site hosts datasets on a variety of topics, such as museum locations for visitors, building energy efficiency ratings, and government spending information. There are more than 430 datasets and visualizations on the site.
The team at Lombardia focuses on data that is most useful to citizens. For example, one of the most popular datasets provides information about accredited elderly care facilities.
“When we publish new datasets, we focus on the information citizens request most often. It’s a way to get the information to them more easily and make sure that everyone is seeing the most current view of the data,” says Daniele Crespi, Innovative Services and eID Development Manager at Lombardia Informatica S. p. A
The Lombardia site focuses especially on citizen empowerment. The top of the portal’s homepage features news about the region’s open data efforts and about the movement around the world. Recently, stories have covered new guidelines for publishing data and updates on Socrata’s software offerings.
“We want to make it easy for people to feel involved and inspired by the data available to them. We’re trying to educate them,” says Crespi. That is why, he adds, there are social network sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and other sites alongside every dataset.
More Efficient Movement of Data
Since Lombardia’s open data presence is cloud-based, it does not require any investment in physical hardware, such as client computers, servers, or datacenters. Cloud hosting also reduces the need for IT resources like networking and security support.
Lombardia has pushed for efficiency in other ways. For example, the Socrata Open Data Portal offers both publisher APIs, for automatic uploading data, and consumer APIs, allowing developers to call on data for machine-to- machine sharing.
Lombardia takes advantage of the publisher API to surface data automatically as it comes in. One example is government finance data, which is often organized into regularly updated spreadsheets.
“It’s a powerful feature of the platform that every Socrata customer has access to,” says Darrell Cabales, a Customer Implementation Manager at Socrata. “Lombardia is smart to use it not just for time savings, but because it makes the site more sustainable in the long term by making it self-service.”
Cabales says that Lombardia’s tech team is one of the most savvy he has worked with, a compliment Crespi appreciates. “We want to have the best open data program in Europe,” says Crespi.
Regione Lombardia continues to move toward excellence in how it serves its citizens.
An original member of the exclusive “Four Motors of Europe,” an alliance between four international regions in Europe focused on cross-border collaboration, Lombardia now participates in the Four Motors “Working Group,” intent upon increasing civic participation among youth, women, minorities, and immigrants. “We want everyone to take part in government,” says Sovani.
And, Lombardia recently hosted their “OpenApp” competition, encouraging residents to create web and mobile applications using open data. More than 111 apps were submitted, vying for €60,000 in prize money. The submissions covered everything from environmental health to the architecture of the region.
Regarding the open data portal, Crespi plans to speed up performance and broaden the use of the platform.
To reach top website performance, Crespi worked with Socrata to move the Lombardia open data portal onto Microsoft’s Azure platform. Socrata’s partnership with Microsoft began in 2013 and, with this new set up, Lombardia’s data center is now located in Europe, closer to end users.
The Lombardia team is building upon their open data portal by bringing more data to daily decisions, and sharing that process with the public. They’re using Socrata’s GovStat, a platform for government performance management based upon open data.
“We want to make information on government activities and decisions more open, comprehensive, timely, and freely available to the public. This is one step toward an open government model where we are more accountable and responsive to citizens,” says Sovani.
Sovani sees a bright future ahead for Lombardia’s open data program.
“Being at the forefront of Europe’s open data movement, we’re using technology and public data to drive our innovation, simplification, and digitization goals,” says Sovani. “We’ve found that many of our answers can be discovered in data that we already have. By hosting an open data portal through Socrata and Windows Azure, we’re able to capitalize on the full value of our data resources.”