The Code for Europe Fellows started their work in January to make public data open, utilize freely accessible tools and build online services for citizens, and to promote the utilization of freely accessible development tools.

The city’s data systems have been built for the use of the civil servants. Open data professional Juha Yrjölä was hired to be a new kind of IT expert. He looks at Helsinki’s data systems from the point of view of a citizen thirsting for information.

Another fellow coder of the Code for Europe program is Tuukka Hastrup. His work place, Helsinki Region Transport HSL, responsible for public transportation in the Helsinki region, is packed with expertise on public transportation. As the office’s only person with coding skills, Hastrup is also able to assist in IT procurement. When you know how to develop software, you can avoid expensive pitfalls.

Sharing the Source Code

Code for Europe program aims to build better services for citizens through new technology. The work of the gifted web developers hired in Helsinki and five other EU cities will be published as open source. The services generated can be utilized in other cities without restrictions.

During his first work weeks, Juha Yrjölä got acquainted with Helsinki City’s records management Ahjo. His assignment is clear: how to make accessible the paperless office system used by 5,000 civil servants and decision-makers to all people interested in decision-making?

In March, the data content of the system will be published as open raw data to be accessed by anybody. “At first, I will develop a slightly more user-friendly interface for the system using modern web technologies. In the next stage, the goal is to make a user interface that even a usual citizen can use”, Yrjölä tells about his plans.

The goal is that citizens can follow decision-making in their part of town, or by using search words, find out about the decision-making progress of specific issues that interest them.

Navigators for public transport passengers

Tuukka Hastrup’s primary development project is a new kind of navigator software for public transportation users. The goal is to make the turn-by-turn instructing navigator application that makes life easier for motorists also available to public transportation customers. “The application would instruct when to change busses and which way to turn from the bus stop”, Hastrup describes.

HSL is one of the open data pioneers in Finland. The schedule data and route service published by HSL are utilized by tens of non-commercially generated mobile apps, such as ReittiGPS of iPhones and Andropas application made for Android phones. Now we test whether the public transportation operator can carry out an even more challenging software project by using Tuukka Hastrup’s open source expertise.

Transparency in procurement

The public transportation navigator code will be published for all to use, and the users of HSL’s open schedule data are encouraged to get involved in developing it. “This kind of project would entail big risks and lots of money if it was done through traditional ways of procurement”, Hastrup estimates.

Hastrup and Yrjölä also hope that they would be able to help the city and citizens to use the already existing and freely accessible tools and data sources. You do not always need to purchase anything if you know or can learn how to do it yourself. “Last week, using the city’s open data, in a couple of hours I generated a demo service showing on the map where the city’s snowplows are at any given moment”, Yrjölä says. So you can easily make small scale demos also by yourself.

Original text: Petja Partanen

Code for Europe project’s Fellow Coders develop online services for citizens in Helsinki and five other European cities – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Manchester and Rome. http://codeforeurope.net/