14 May 2024

Democracy Technologies: Can you explain the basic idea behind your local data portal?

Pavel Bulíček: It is the first regional data portal in the Czech Republic that offers open data, statistical data and regional data visualised in a user-friendly format for citizens in one place. It provides users with quick and easy information in the form of infographics, statistically interlinked data, annual reports, map stories, and data cards of the region.  

The portal has enabled more effective data interconnectivity for the cities and municipalities of the Hradec Králové Region. The data collected is used to support management and decision-making processes. It also presents opportunities for new project ideas from citizens, and supports the development of further innovations and services. And the whole thing is automatically linked to both the Czech national and the European open data catalogues. 

DT: Who uses the open data portal?

Bulíček: Since it was launched on 5 November 2021 until mid-February of this year, it was visited by more than 12,500 unique users, who viewed over 92 thousand pages during nearly 26,000 visits. 

The data portal is intended for both professionals and the general public. It is also an important source of information during meetings with representatives of local governments and organisations. And it allows political leaders in the region to obtain important information for decision-making processes. 

But it is also intended for all users of open data, such as developers of new applications. It is accessed by journalists and by the press department, which uses the data cards for social media posts. And of course, it is there for the general public.

DT: How did you address the challenge of making data more accessible and understandable for citizens?

Bulíček: The data is visualised in a public-friendly way in the form of interactive graphs or map displays. This means the data can be accessed quickly. It gives the citizen an overview of how public funds are spent, and what purpose they serve. This helps ensure the transparency and openness of public administration. Users can also download the data source in several formats for if they want to work with it themselves. 

Transparency is a key element of democracy. It increases public trust and enables informed participation of citizens in monitoring processes for regional development. Informed citizens can scrutinise public policy, participate in public debates, express their views, and contribute to the development of the region with their feedback. 

An overview of some key culture and tourism data for the Hradec Králové region. Data visualisations like these help make data accessible to a general audience.

DT: The data portal also uses interactive maps to make the data more accessible. Why is this important?  

Bulíček: Interactive maps are an important tool for increasing civic engagement and participation in public processes. They help to improve access to information as they are easily accessible and understandable. Citizens can directly mark places on the map with suggestions or comments. This makes it easier to collect and analyse them for improvement. Interactive maps help to identify problem areas such as pollution or the need for repairs to public infrastructure.  

They can also be used to show current traffic situations, planned changes in transport infrastructure or suggestions for improving mobility. They enable citizens to participate in the creation of more efficient and sustainable transport systems. 

DT: What steps have you taken to ensure the quality of the data?

Bulíček: The quality of the open datasets is continuously improved by organising regular hackathons for application development. They provide feedback and monitoring on quality from data specialists and developers, as well as suggestions for future improvement, and ideas for new datasets that would benefit citizens in the region. 

The region regularly organises hackathons to design applications over open data for high school and university students in cooperation with the University of Hradec Králové. We also collaborate on hackathons at the national level with the Supreme Audit Office of the Czech Republic.  

DT: What were some of the key challenges in the project?

Bulíček: The most challenging part was the process of creating the website on our own. We had to update and unify the open data datasets according to the rules of the formatting standards for open data in the Czech Republic, and prepare them for publication in the Local Catalogue of Open Data. 

There was also the issue of creating the interactive graphs, which required us to process a large number of different data sources. The data visualisation solution, as well as the overall simplicity, ultimately convinced other regional staff to share large-scale data, enabling the creation of a large regional database. At the same time, much of the processed data had already been prepared due to the timelessness of the regional leadership, who anticipated the need for an analytical department for overall data integration.

DT: Have other regions in the Czech Republic followed your example? 

Bulíček: New regional data portals are already being created. We have already been approached by 8 other regions in the Czech Republic. We share our best practices with them in the field of open data and the implementation of data portals. Also, we participate in working groups of the Government Council, associations of regions, and regional directors’ committees.  

The government also approached the region to collaborate on events promoting digital education as part of the Czech Digital Week. As part of this event, the region organised a meeting of representatives of public administration regions to share best practices in the field of open data. We also organised a workshop aimed at secondary school teachers to develop digital education and acquire digital skills in the field of open data. 

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