The qualitative leap in the Smart City world in Turkey is obvious and the Novusens Smart City Institute is one of the main responsible organizations for this step forward into the future. The leaders of NOVUSENS has revealed an article about the Open Data world of Turkey.
Smart City as a concept has currently been evolving and gaining attraction in Turkey when compared with the past. This is also due to the announcement of the 2020-2023 National Smart Cities Strategy and Action Plan by the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning at the end of 2019. The plan aims to support and provide guidance to municipalities across Turkey to prepare smart city strategies and realize them. As Novusens, we provide assistance to cities for increasing their capacities through our enriched smart city training portfolio and advise them regarding their smart city transformation journeys.
When it comes to look into the status of Open Data in Turkey in the context of Smart Cities, it would be fair enough to state that Open Data in Turkey is somewhat a concept that is still in beginning phase.
As NOVUSENS Big Data Institute, we’ve recently conducted a project titled as ‘Open Data and Smart Cities in Turkey’ which was supported by UK Prosperity Fund Future Cities Program¹ where the aim is to increase demand for open data management services and products through increased awareness and capacity of local authorities, while stimulating collaboration and new business opportunities.
Our study has been implemented largely among municipality participants, consisting of roughly two thirds of the total respondents, for details please refer to http://www.novusens.com/en/smart-city-institute-reports/ . The results of the UK-Turkey Open Data and Smart Cities Project indicated that the main obstacle for realizing open data projects is reported as ‘data privacy and doubts about KVKK - Turkey’s version of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), while other legal matters are not seen as an issue.
Meanwhile, according to Blockchain Turkey Platform’s Open Data Report, while there are no specific barriers to open data, regulations can be made especially concerning licensing and evaluation of KVKK from an open data perspective. Regarding KVKK, the report further states that due to anonymization of data shared under open data applications, such data does not necessarily fall within the scope of personal data and hence can be exempt from related KVKK implications. This indicates that there is room for improvement on the concerns regarding ‘data privacy and KVKK’ challenge and studies / workshops specific to this issue can accelerate open data transition among municipalities and public institutions.
Other top challenges for open data applications in Turkey has been cited as lack of open data standards and skills and existence of an open data ecosystem. The Project has addressed the skills training challenge with Open Data Institute’s (ODI) ‘Open Data in a Day’ training and local capacity has been built to scale such trainings. Also, an attempt has been made to establish an open data ecosystem in Turkey, through a Linkedin group called ‘Open Data Community TR’.
The key findings of our project in terms of benefits of using Open Data were the contribution to transparency which was cited as the top benefit of open data applications and improving efficiency of services & increasing citizen participation also topped the list of potential benefits. Smart city components Governance, Environment, Mobility and Economy were perceived as the domains that will benefit the most from open data applications.
Another important finding of our research was about the participant’s view on whether they would be willing to consider sharing their personal data. They responses showed that they would be willing to consider sharing their personal data provided that GDPR is well respected with appropriate anonymization techniques. The reasons that stand out as most important for releasing personal data are:
• easier access to public services
• contributing to transparency
• improving quality of social services (like health, education)
• environmental and mobility related uses
Although, open data concept in Turkey is somewhat at an infancy stage, there are cities that have already opened up their data.
With regard to municipalities, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has launched its open data portal on January 19th, 2020 and Balikesir Metropolitan Municipality on June 19th, 2020. According to our research, about one third of the respondents stated that they considering to open-up their data, so more will probably follow these examples soon.
In our research study, the top critical success factors to consider when realizing open data projects were raising awareness of open data potential and providing technical support/ training. Identifying main challenges which open data can help solve and forming eco-systems around these challenges to generate solutions is also noted as another important factor in realization of such projects. Both factors indicate the need to show benefits and quick wins of open data projects to ensure success of open data projects.
The Open Data Workshop also provided some insight on how to facilitate the realization of open data projects. Systematic monitoring of the benefits of open data projects through use of KPIs (categorized according to smart city components) will potentially make benefits measurable and visible for the general public.
We believe that the organizations that are active in providing services in open data should have a strategy and approach to be able to help the organizations who are actively working on open data or considering to open their data. As NOVUSENS Big Data Institute, our aim is to contribute to the development of cities through open data.
More and more infrastructures allow data to be collected, which can be of great value for the city and its citizens. With EU data economy expected to grow up to €739 billion by 2020, potential is underlined. According to ITIF, UK leads the Open Data Charter among G8 countries.
However, As ODI’s research² has already pointed out that ‘... it was widely felt that the language of ‘smart cities’, was little more than a marketing strategy and that the move towards speaking about ‘open’, ‘digitized’, ‘citizen centric’ and so on was providing to be more desirable, meaningful and positive’. We’ve been experiencing similar challenges in Turkey about the misconception of smart cities as most of the transformations and implementations are lacking data infrastructures and spending huge amount investments to realize them. Similarly, we are advocating for open and smart cities as a means to fostering sustainable cities.
We’re frequently asked about the next steps to have to foster the transition of cities to being more sustainable and smart thru openness. As the leaders of NOVUSENS Big Data Institute, we would like to state that we’re eager to continue to delivering open data / smart city trainings and consultancy to interested municipalities, government agencies, NGOs, academies, startups who aim to improve their readiness for current and future challenges.
We’ll also continue to provide various studies to cities to help them become sustainable and smart cities thru openness where technology usage will be easing their digital transformation journey.
We believe that the evolution of cities to become a more sustainable and smart can only be possible through openness and with effective use of citizen engagement and technology, so that the quality of life for citizens can be increased in the ‘new normal’. Many cities around the world have already started this transition like Amsterdam, Helsinki, Gdansk, Barcelona, Tarragona, Hamburg...etc.. We’re determined to scale this approach in Turkey and abroad.