WeLive project: Open the data!

​During the spring, Master's degree students from Laurea worked together with the city of Vantaa to develop more than 20 service innovations, which utilise open data produced by the city. Open data expert for the city of Vantaa Lari Aho feels that the utilisation of open data offers a great deal of potential for the city.

Open data refers to all the data that companies and public organisations have accumulated, which has been made available to the general public freely and free of charge. This type of data can include different map materials, weather statistics or traffic information.

There is no limit to the number of ways in which these gigantic data masses can be utilised. Espoo, Helsinki and Vantaa have engaged in cooperation in the utilisation of open data, and the Helsinki Region Infoshare i.e. the HRI.fi online service has come about as a result. In recent years, many types of new initiatives on the utilisation of open data that are unique in Finland have been made in Vantaa. One of these is linked to the popular game Minecraft:

- For this reason, all of Vantaa including its roads, buildings and different land forms has been altered into digital format. An area of 240 square kilometres of real Vantaa was turned in a gaming area for 100 million players of Minecraft, says Lari Aho, an expert of open data, who works for the city of Vantaa.

Open data enables, but is not an end in itself

Laurea together with the city of Helsinki, the city of Vantaa and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council is taking part in the WeLive project. The project aims to develop methods for refining new types of commercial service innovations from open data.
There is already a great deal of open data available, but in order for it to be possible to create successful commercial applications from it, two important things are missing from the equation:

- First, we need new types of expertise on how data can be found and used, Lari Aho says.
- Second, we need epiphanies on what data can be utilised for and on the types of challenges it can be used to resolve. Within the scope of our cooperation with Laurea, we have made an effort to resolve these two issues.

During the spring, a group of UAS Master's students from different fields utilised open data to solve development challenges encountered by the city of Vantaa. A total of 24 new service innovations were conceptualised by three person teams from open data produced by the city of Vantaa during the jointly realised study unit.

- The students had really grasped the facilitating nature of open data; open data did not play the main role, as this was given to the city's challenges which the teams were to solve, Lari Aho states.
- The inclusion of users, which in practice meant that students gathered feedback on their ideas from real end users, played an important role in the work. Many of the teams altered the direction in which their idea was headed during the project on account of this user feedback.

Students provided valuable feedback to the city on what type of data they had found and what data was difficult to find or was not available at all.

Some of the students have continued the development of the idea formed during the study unit as the subject of their thesis. Two of the concepts have resulted in pre-start-up teams, where students examine whether their idea could be developed into an actual business concept. One of these further developed concepts is the 'Reach your destination safely' learning game. This past spring, the students who developed the game also participated in the Cambridge Venture Camp to seek help for the further development of their idea.

Co-creation adds agility to the utilisation of data

Lari Aho explains that the commission for the shared study unit aimed to give students as much space as possible to be creative in developing their own solutions to urban challenges.

- Because the students participating in the study unit were completing their Master's degrees, the three person teams comprised a versatile mix of work experience. In this context, I would not even use the word 'student'. A better term would perhaps be 'developer' Aho says.

Aho feels that by utilising their previous experience and skills, many student teams have been able to develop their ideas further than the city would have ever had the opportunity to do by itself. He sees student cooperation as an exceptionally good facilitator for the utilisation of open data by the city.

- It is a fact that the city and public actors in general find it challenging to produce new types of services. This is due to various hindering factors including regulations, organisational culture and limited resources, Aho describes.
- Open data makes it possible for external actors (e.g. students and start-ups) to develop services with an agility that we who work for the city can only dream of.

Lari Aho strongly believes that these types of open development processes could offer a great deal of potential that cities could utilise. At the moment, open co-creation only lacks an established operating model which does not include unnecessary bottlenecks - control points, where permits or approval provided by authorities are required.

Cooperation with Vantaa integrates WeLive with studies

The three year-long WeLive project (A neW concept of pubLic administration based on citizen co-created mobile urban services) will run until January 2018. The objective of the project is to improve services offered by cities by creating a more open model for the design, production and sharing of public services.

WeLive aims to harness unprocessed information i.e. open data into new service innovations for public administration, organisations, companies and private individuals developed together with various players. During the project an innovation platform for the utilisation of open data will be created. In addition to this the tools to facilitate co-creation will be designed as will a business model.

A total of 12 partners from four European countries (Finland, Spain, Italy and Serbia) are taking part in the project. A design game has been developed at Laurea as part of the WeLive project, which will make it easier for citizens to participate in the development of digital services.

The realisation of the WeLive project has been inherently linked as part of Master's degree studies. Cooperation with the city of Vantaa is one example of this. Over the course of four semesters during numerous study units, Master's degree students have taken part in the development of different types of digital service concepts which utilise open data. At the same time, a model for the integration of Master's degree studies and RDI activities has also been developed at Laurea.


The article was originally published in Finnish in Laurea Kehittäjä magazine. Learn more about the WeLive project here.

Modified 10/19/2017 9:27 AM