This section describes the benefits of sharing and opening data for different parties in society.
Rather than reducing in value, digital data can be regarded as becoming the more valuable, the more it is used. When an organisation shares its data for wider use, parties outside the organisation, such as companies and citizens, can utilise and combine the same data for their own purposes. Sharing data is the information society’s way of working together.
As a rule, public administration organisations collect and manage data for the purpose of their statutory tasks. This means that large information resources may be accumulated for a single purpose or a handful of tasks. By sharing this data more widely to others, significant productivity gains and increased operational efficiency can be achieved. In addition, opening the data may create new opportunities for its wider use in society.
Sharing data as open data
The benefits of open data can be examined in different ways, for example from an economic, social, ecological, or political perspective, or in terms of performance. For example, the opening of environmental data promotes the circular economy, more efficient use of natural resources and biodiversity, whereas transparency regarding the central government’s budget and procurement data improves efficient use of tax revenue and supports the fight against corruption.
Open access datasets
- engage citizens and increase activity
- improve the performance of organisations,
- enable business and economic development through innovations and new services,
- promote democracy and administrative transparency,
- facilitate cooperation between different authorities, and
- create opportunities for freely utilising data for one’s own purposes.
For additional information on sharing data as open data, see the following:
- The Data.europa.eu model examines the benefits of data sharing with a particular emphasis on performance, the economy, and society.
- Read more about the benefits of opening data in the data.europa.eu service.
- To assess the potential benefits of sharing data, organisations can use the assessment method described in the “Benefits, risks and costs” section in step 5.
What can open data be used for?
Open data can be used by anyone. Many companies and developers make use of open data in various services, applications and studies, for instance.
The following sources offer examples of how open data can be used:
- Applications available in the Open Data service
- The Open Data service’s application gallery contains examples of applications that cover the entirety of Finland, as well as those used by different cities.
- Helsinki Region Infoshare’s application showcase
- The website of Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) includes a showcase of applications that utilise the data provided by the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
Benefits of opening data to public administration
In public administration, the opening and utilisation of open data can help improve information management and knowledge-based management, decision-making and performance, as well as the planning and implementation of public services. It is unnecessary for public administration agencies to collect the same data several times, as they can use the same data in several different tasks.
As a rule, public data must be made available to the public (section 12 of the Constitution of Finland 731/1999 and the Act on the Openness of Government Activities 621/1999). However, the opening of data benefits many different parties, including the organisation that opened the data. For this reason, all organisations should familiarise themselves with the benefits of opening their data.
For example, when an organisation opens its data, it is likely to receive fewer requests for information. Instead of using the organisation's resources to respond to these requests, it can allocate them to other activities.
Open data opens up new opportunities for cooperation between authorities as the data is enriched with other data from different sources and organisations. For example, the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) utilises the business data opened by the Finnish Patent and Registration Office as part of its investigations into dangerous products and the related communication activities.
When the public sector’s information resources are made available as widely and openly as possible also across sectors, it becomes possible to
- conserve resources,
- develop and improve the efficiency of the administration's internal processes and
- improve the quality, descriptions and discoverability of data.
Planning the processes for mapping and opening potential datasets may, in itself, help to develop the organisation. The mapping process often results in the creation of new operating processes that can help eliminate overlapping work or increase the degree of automation in the processing of data. A larger organisation can facilitate collaboration between its departments and units by giving them an easier way of accessing each other’s data.
Information on open data in public administration in the data.europa.eu service.
Benefits of opening data for society
For example, open access datasets help to increase the transparency of public administration and build trust. Open data strengthens civic participation and helps prevent corruption.
Open data is used in, for example, research, education, and media activities. The openness of public activities and the data produced in connection with them can help increase civic trust in public administration while also developing said administration through civic feedback.
Use of open data in education
Open datasets, open source code software and open scientific publishing have had a major impact on education. Open datasets are used widely in geographic teaching at universities, for instance.
Today, authentic open spatial datasets can be used in teaching, instead of imaginary data. Students are encouraged to search for and demand open datasets and open source software as well as to share their output openly. Read more about the use of open data in geography teaching.
Open data is also used at universities of applied sciences. For example, students at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences have for several years been offered courses where real-life problems are solved using open datasets and APIs. Read more about the cooperation between Metropolia UAS and HRI (in Finnish).
Students at Häme University of Applied Sciences have also been actively guided to use open datasets. See e.g. Kukkamäki, J., Mikkonen, A., Stormi, I. & Mäntyneva, M. (2020). Use of open data in education and science (in Finnish). In J. Kukkamäki & M. Tarkkala (eds.), Avoin Häme. HAMK Unlimited Journal 25 Aug 2020.
Use of open data in research
Open datasets are used in theses, doctoral dissertations and other scientific research projects.
Open science and research in the Finnish research community are coordinated by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies with funding provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The aim of this coordination is to promote discussion on the objectives and methods of open science and research within the academic community and to promote cooperation and raise awareness of the opportunities, challenges and solutions of open science and research. Read more at avointiede.fi.
Open data has also been produced and used by the Digital Geography Lab of the University of Helsinki which has, among other things, produced open access travel time matrix data in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
Read more about the Digital Geography Lab’s research group or watch a recording on the use of open data at higher education institutions (in Finnish).
Theses that have utilised open data can be found in e.g. the digital archives of different universities and the search services offered by various libraries.
For example, a Master's thesis at the University of Turku made use of open data in landscape research: Virtanen, Katrina. 2020. Avoin data ja droonikuvaus maisemahistoriallisen tutkimusmenetelmän kehittämisessä : havaintoja Ruissalon historiallisista huvilakohteista (in Finnish).
The benefits and utilisation of open data in business were examined in the dissertation: Herrala, Antti. 2018. Benefits from Open Data: Barriers of Supply and Demand of Open Data in Private Organizations.
Use of open data in the media
The media and journalists actively use open data to produce news items and other articles. This work is known as data journalism. For more information on data journalism, see e.g. the website created by the universities of Tampere and Jyväskylä (in Finnish).
For instance, Yle’s Plus-deski (in Finnish) creates impressive and in-depth online journalism as part of Yle’s news and current affairs reporting. The Plus-deski produces data journalism, visual features, virtual reality and interactive articles.
A Plus-deski journalist’s experiences of using open data and APIs (in Finnish).
Helsingin Sanomat also has a desk focusing on data journalism, which makes extensive use of different datasets in its articles. For example, Helsingin Sanomat has produced:
- News and graphics on the COVID-19 pandemic situation (in Finnish) that made use of various sources, such as the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s open datasets.
- Articles using the open 3D city model of Helsinki, e.g. a visualisation of high-rise buildings in Pasila (in Finnish)
- Interactive articles on the types of housing that different people can afford and how the cost of living differs in various parts of Finland (in Finnish, available to HS subscribers).
HS was awarded a bronze medal in the international Malofiej Awards for Infographics (in Finnish) for an article drawing on open data, as well as a certificate of honour in the Datamenestyjät competition (in Finnish) intended for those using Statistics Finland’s datasets.
Business benefits of opening data
Open datasets present great commercial business opportunities for companies. Open access datasets can significantly reduce a company's investment needs and save its resources. Companies do not need to re-collect data that public actors have already provided as open data. By using open data, companies can develop their existing operations and create completely new business. This may produce new added value to the company's customers or expand the customer base further. The company can also recruit new employees, which is of high value for society.
In addition, open data can help the company to improve its
- knowledge-based management,
- performance, and
- the efficiency of its service design and delivery.
The business benefits generated by open data are both direct and indirect. The direct benefits are economic benefits that, for example, increase the company's capital, create new jobs, or bring cost savings. Indirect benefits refer to e.g. the creation of new services, increased operational efficiency in organisations, and business growth.
Example: Maas Global Oy
Maas Global provides its Whim application, which combines public transport, city bikes, taxis, and car sharing and rentals, for a monthly fee. The company relies on local partners in its service production.
MaaS Global is the world's first company to provide mobility as a service. More than 20 million trips have been completed using this service launched in December 2018. MaaS Global uses open data to plan itineraries and produce timetables. In addition, Maas Global's business is based on access to (ticketing and payment) APIs provided by other actors. This means that the company can buy tickets from Helsinki Region Transport, for example, and sell trips based on them in its application.
In 2019, Maas Global was presented with the European ‘Future Unicorn Award’. The term ‘unicorn’ refers to a company whose value exceeds EUR 1 billion. Read more about the Future Unicorn Award.
Example: Gispo Oy
Gispo Oy is a Finnish spatial data company whose aim is to promote the development and use of open-source spatial data software and open spatial data. Gispo works with spatial data in its different life cycle stages and actively uses open data in its consulting and training services. The company has grown both within and outside Finland.
Examples of the use and benefits of open data
Open purchase invoice data
Many municipalities and the central government have published their purchase invoice data as open data. This has strongly increased the transparency of public administration, making it possible to compare the purchasing activities of public administration organisations, and contributed to prudent use of public funds.
Open access to purchase invoice data has enabled the State Treasury to create the user-friendly OpenProcurement.fi service, which makes it easy to compare data concerning different organisations.
Municipalities’ and joint municipal authorities’ open financial information
Financial information approved by municipalities and joint municipal authorities is available as open data in JSON and XML formats through a REST API. This has allowed the State Treasury to create the user-friendly Exploreadministration.fi/municipalities service. This information can be freely used either as raw data or through an API, for example for knowledge-based management and operational development in public administration.
Open spatial datasets
The Finnish Environment Institute
The Finnish Environment Institute's open datasets are used diversely to support planning and decision-making, including in land use planning and various permit processes as well as to assess the environmental impacts of projects. These datasets are also used as research and teaching materials at universities and other educational institutions.
The Finnish Environment Institute's spatial data combined with other datasets are also used in services intended for communication and sharing of environmental data, which such actors as the ELY Centres have prepared for municipalities and other stakeholders in their areas. Examples of this can be found on the website of the ELY Centre for Pirkanmaa (in Finnish). Other examples of applications that use the Finnish Environment Institute’s spatial data include vesi.fi (for research data on water) and meriopas.fi (for maritime data).
The Finnish Environment Institute’s open geographic datasets can be downloaded as data packages or by using open API services. Metadata descriptions have also been prepared for these datasets. Download services compliant with the INSPIRE Directive provide access to the Finnish Environment Institute's INSPIRE datasets mainly via Atom feeds as GML files. Some of the datasets are available through a WFS direct download service. Spatial datasets downloaded from the Finnish Environment Institute’s service are covered by an open data licence.
The National Land Survey of Finland
The National Land Survey's open datasets are widely used in different sectors, including the public administration, forestry, construction, navigation, software design and production, research and education. The open datasets are also widely used in various leisure activities.
Examples of browser services:
- Metsähallitus’ excursionmap.fi (in Finnish)
- Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s kalastusrajoitus.fi (in Finnish)
- MapAnt.fi for orienteers
Examples of mobile applications:
Open data is also used in commercial navigation applications.
The National Land Survey’s map and spatial datasets are available both as an API service and a file service. The API service always provides the most up-to-date data and uses such standards as WMS, WMT, WFS, REST and OGC API Feature. MapSite and Paikkatietoikkuna are examples of user interfaces implemented with API services. Files available through the file service are datasets describing a certain point in time. The National Land Survey has provided instructions for making use of the API service and file service.
The Finnish Meteorological Institute
The Finnish Meteorological Institute's open spatial datasets are available as a download, viewing or file service, depending on the set. Most of the datasets can be accessed through a machine-readable WFS API compliant with the INSPIRE Directive. The most common weather observations are also available through the Finnish Meteorological Institute's website using a special user interface. Additionally, some of the grid format data has also been published on Amazon AWS Public Datasets service.
The website of the Finnish Meteorological Institute provides examples of using open weather data (in Finnish).
Statistics Finland's open geographic datasets consist of statistical areas and the statistical data that has been combined with them. The datasets can be accessed through a WMS and WFS API, and some are available in INSPIRE Directive compliant form through a WMS API and a new type of OGC API Features interface. Read more about Statistics Finland’s open geographic datasets and their use.
Open data in Suomi.fi Finnish Service Catalogue
The data in Suomi.fi Finnish Service Catalogue is up to date and reliable, fully open and provided free of charge. The Finnish Service Catalogue eliminates any need to maintain data on services and service channels in a number of different systems, as the organisation can automatically use its service channel content in the Finnish Service Catalogue through an open API. The Social Services Institution (Kela), for example, uses its service point data registered in the Finnish Service Catalogue in its own service point search function by retrieving the information on joint service points from the Catalogue. This means that the information maintained by municipalities is updated in Kela's service point search function. The solutions developed in the national AI programme AuroraAI also utilised the open data in the Finnish Service Catalogue. The term of the working group was 31 January 2020 – 31 December 2022.