3. Motivation and organisation

Benefits of opening data

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:

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:

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:

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,
  • decision-making,
  • 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. 

Watch a recording on the use of open data in spatial data companies (in Finnish).

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:

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

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 services provided by public administration and the various service channels associated with them have been described in a uniform format in the Suomi.fi Finnish Service Catalogue (FCS) (in Finnish), which is a shared and centralised information reserve maintained by the Digital and Population Data Services Agency. While public administration organisations have a statutory obligation to use the Suomi.fi Finnish Service Catalogue, private service providers can also use the service within its terms of use.

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.

Goals, measurement, and incentives

This section describes how the goals, measurement, and incentives related to the opening of data can be defined and implemented.

It is advisable to include data opening-related goals in the organisation’s (e.g. agency's or municipality’s) strategy, operating and financial plan, or performance agreements. It is also a good idea to set organisation or unit-specific indicators for monitoring and verifying the achievement of these goals.

Different indicators provide a strong way of guiding and managing an organisation’s operations. They can be used to ensure, for example, that the benefits of sharing data are in line with the objectives set for it. 

Examples of goal setting

Organisations’ strategy

In 2019, the City of Helsinki adopted a Data Strategy (in Finnish), the goal of which is that the data produced by Helsinki will be the most usable and used urban data in the world by 2025. Among other things, the Data strategy aims to boost business and promote the tapping of external resources by sharing data.

The goal is that, in addition to internal activities, an external ecosystem consisting of such actors as organisations, universities and companies could share and use data administrated by the city on a platform basis. External actors could conduct research and develop services which the city cannot offer, or where the offer is inadequate.

Agency performance targets

The Finnish Environment Institute groups the impact targets set for the agency’s activities into five categories, and both indicators and target values have been specified for them. One of these categories is producing and promoting the use of environmental data, which is described as follows: "Environmental data is relevant to users, open, reliable and accessible. Data production is proactive. Operating models capitalising on new technologies also support public administration reforms and boost sustainable business models internationally.“ As the indicator has been specified the availability and accessibility of services and the change in electronic data service uptake compared to 2019.

Annual reports are issued on the achievement of impact targets, and detail is added to strategic impact targets annually by means of a concrete strategy implementation plan. For more information, see the Finnish Environment Institute’s operational and financial plan for 2020–2023 (in Finnish, pdf), Finnish Environment Institute reports 27/2020.

Performance agreements

The performance agreement between the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency for 2020–2023 (in Finnish), which implements the Government Programme, specifies different performance targets. One of these targets is "The availability and interoperability of digital data has been improved and the MyData operating model has been utilised to accelerate the data economy". This performance target also includes indicators and annual target levels.

Commitment to the international Once-Only Principle

The objective of the Once-Only Principle (OOP) is to reduce the burden caused by administrative tasks. In practice, this means avoiding the re-collection of the same data from citizens and companies. Instead, public administration actors should receive the data they need from other authorities when appropriate.

This objective was confirmed by EU ministers in the Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment in 2009. The EU-wide application of the OOP is also one of the pillars of the Digital Single Market Strategy and one of the fundamental principles of the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016–2020.

In order to implement the OOP, data sharing must function well across society and especially within public administration.

Commitment to international FAIR principles

In 2016, the FAIR principles were published, the compliance with which is outlined in the Council of the European Union Resolution 9526/16 from 2016. These principles are also highlighted in the European Commission’s Communication on a European Data Strategy (2020) as a method for promoting interoperability.

 The purpose of the FAIR principles is to make data 

  • Findable, 
  • Accessible, 
  • Interoperable, and 
  • Re-usable. 

In Finland, the Ministry of Education and Culture is committed to the FAIR principles, and Fairdata services are developed on the basis of these principles. Various EU funding programmes also comply with the FAIR principles.

Guidance on the FAIR principles and other open science policies is also available on the Commission's Funding & Tenders portal.

Measuring the opening of data

The purpose of measuring the opening of data is to ensure that the benefits of sharing are realised. These measurements should be carried out in a goal-oriented manner as part of the data opening process, in order to concretise the benefits gained from opening one’s data. By utilising different indicators, an organisation can understand e.g. how much money it has saved by opening its data and providing it as open data. 

Before opening your data, you should survey the demand for your datasets. Demand can be measured through e.g. download or page visitor statistics. Data and its openness can also be assessed from different perspectives. to identify any development needs. After the data has been opened, the impacts that its opening has had on decision-making, stakeholder participation, or operational efficiency can be measured. The impact that the opening of the data has had can be examined, for example, with a PESTEL analysis.

PESTEL analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a method that can be used to measure open data. The method places particular emphasis on six different areas:

  • Political: The impact of open data on political decisions, administrative transparency, and administrative cooperation 
  • Economic: The impact of open data on economic growth, innovations, business, and expenses
  • Social: The impact of open data on civic engagement, support for minorities, and accessibility
  • Technological: The impact of open data on infrastructure, interoperability, and new technologies 
  • Environmental: The impact of open data on sustainable development, climate change mitigation, and environmental decision-making
  • Legal: The impact of open data on the development of legal guidelines, interpretations, and rulings, as well as standardised data sharing frameworks or agreements

For example, the annual Open Data Maturity assessment commissioned by the European Commission draws on the areas of the PESTEL analysis when examining the development of open data in Europe. You can access the final reports of the assessments in the data.europa.eu service.

Measuring the openness of data

In addition to measuring the opening of data, it is also possible to measure the openness of data from several different perspectives. Open data can be evaluated for its

  • discoverability
  • entirety
  • equality with regard to its terms of use
  • originality and up-to-dateness
  • legal and free reusability
  • non-fee-charging nature
  • machine readability
  • file format-related openness, and
  • comprehensibility.

For more information, see the publication Introduction to opening information reserves (in Finnish, pdf), Ministry of Transport and Communications 2010.

Incentives for opening data 

Incentives and requirements specific to individual organisations or employees should be included in the data opening process, to increase the organisation’s commitment to its data opening goals.

Without any incentives or requirements, the organisation may find it difficult to understand the value of opening its data to others. For many organisations, the opening of data can represent an additional burden whose benefits for end-users and, even more so, for the organisation can be difficult to measure. Many organisations rarely use their open data APIs or even the data they intend to open for their own purposes. This is why the opening of data does not create operational benefits for organisations.

Incentives provided by Helsinki Region Infoshare

HRI encourages the opening of data by communicating about its benefits and applications created based on it. In addition, HRI has for many years showcased the most interesting data initiatives and thanked persons who have been instrumental in opening data on a monthly basis (in its newsletter and on social media) and by means of a yearly award. For example:

The award winners for each year can be found on the HRI’s website (in Finnish).

Organisation of information management

This section describes how an organisation falling within the scope of the Information Management Act should organise its information management. The Information Management Act is discussed in more general terms in the section “Key Finnish legislation”.

Information management refers to the organisation of information processes so that the information’s availability, discoverability, and usability for different purposes are ensured throughout the information’s life cycle.

The tasks of the information management entity specified in the Public Information Management Act and the responsibilities of its management body are described below.

Information management entities and their management bodies

In the Public Information Management Act (906/2019), an information management entity refers to an authority who has a duty to organise its information management in accordance with the Act.

In the Public Information Management Act (906/2019), the management body of an information management entity refers to the authority or public official responsible for the general management of the information management entity.

The following table presents the information management entities defined in the Public Information Management Act, as well as examples of the actors responsible for organising the information management practices of said entities.

Example of responsible persons or parties in information management entities

Information management entityManagement body of an information management entity
State agency or institutionHead of the agency, such as Director General or Permanent Secretary (ministries)
MunicipalityMunicipal executives together with the municipal manager
Joint municipal authorityThe Board together with the Director of the joint municipal authority
CourtsChief judge
Committees established to handle appealsChairperson
Parliamentary agenciesHead of the agency
State enterprisesState enterprise's Board of Directors together with the Managing Director
Independent institutions governed by public lawInstitution's Board together with the Director
UniversitiesUniversity board together with the Rector
Universities of applied sciencesBoard together with the Rector (CEO)

The tasks of an information management entity

According to section 13 of the Public Information Management Act, the information management entity must:

  • monitor the state of the data security of its operating environment,
  • ensure the data security of its datasets and information systems over their entire life cycle,
  • determine the material risks to data processing,
  • dimension the data security measures in accordance with the risk assessment,
  • identify and assess the risks associated with the opening and sharing of data and implement the necessary risk management measures, and
  • accept any residual risks in writing.

Responsibilities of an information management entity’s management body

Under the Public Information Management Act, responsibilities related to the organisation of information management are assigned to the management body of the information management entity. The management body must ensure that the responsibilities connected to the tasks relating to the implementation of information management have been defined and that adequate supervision of compliance with the information management obligations has been organised. The responsibilities concerning information resources and information systems are also described in the information management model in accordance with section 5.2 of the Public Information Management Act, which means that, in this respect, the information management entity may also define the responsibilities in its information management model.

The management body must also ensure that the entity has up-to-date instructions for the processing of datasets, the use of information systems, the data processing rights, the implementation of the information management responsibilities and for the rights of access to information, data security measures and preparedness for exceptional circumstances.

The management body must also make sure that the entity has training available to ensure that the personnel have adequate knowledge of the provisions, regulations and instructions of the information management entity in force relating to information management, data processing and publicity and secrecy of documents. For the implementation of the principle of publicity, the information management entity must maintain a description of the information resources and case register under its management. The maintenance of document publicity descriptions is the responsibility of public officials or employees.

Additionally, the management body must provide the proper tools for implementing the obligations relating to information management. As part of providing proper tools, the management body must ensure, when making procurements, that the interoperability of information systems and information resources can be implemented and that the APIs can be opened, at least in situations where this is required under the Public Information Management Act. Additionally, it must be ensured that technical API data structures have been specified and that the API descriptions are available to the information management entity and actors accessing the data.

In connection with changes to information systems and APIs, the interoperability of information resources and their usability when compiling and using data must be taken into consideration. The information management entity should also identify any needs and rights of other authorities or actors to use the data that can be accessed and assess the impacts of the change from their perspective.

Examples and additional information on the organisation of information management and the first steps

Organising and allocating resources to data sharing

This section describes what the organisation should take into account when organising and allocating resources to the sharing of data.

An organisation should have one or several persons who are responsible for all data sharing activities and who coordinate the opening of data in the organisation and provide advice when necessary. The ways in which the roles and organisational structures concerning data sharing are defined depends entirely on the organisation’s own resources.

The roles in the data sharing process can vary significantly between organisations, depending on the organisation’s structure and the nature of the data to be opened. The data sharing and opening process can involve e.g. the following roles:

  • data producers
  • data administrators
  • data distributors 
  • data users and added value producers

In addition to human resources, the organisation should pay attention to the following costs when allocating resources to the sharing and opening of data:

  • Costs of processing the dataset
  • Costs of dataset storage
  • Costs of describing the dataset (metadata)
  • Costs of publishing the dataset and communication costs
  • Costs incurred from maintaining and updating the dataset

The organisation is advised to assign responsibility for risk management, information security and data protection related to the opening of data to one or more persons. The risks are described in more detail in step 5: “Planning and implementation”.

Examples of the organisation of data opening processes

Organisation of the data opening process in Helsinki Region Infoshare

Two people work full time in Helsinki Region Infoshare’s (HRI) open data service for the cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Their main tasks include supporting the data openers of the cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, promoting the utilisation of data, maintaining the hri.fi website, and communicating about open data through different channels. In addition to the HRI service employees, many city employees participate in opening data in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area as part of their other tasks. The division of responsibilities between the data manager and the HRI service in the opening of data is described in the life cycle management model for open data in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area (in Finnish).

The work of the HRI service is directed by a regional steering group consisting of representatives from the cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The cities finance HRI’s work with amounts that are in proportion to their populations. In 2021, for example, HRI's budget (excluding payroll costs) was EUR 60,000. Opening data may not always require a large amount of work. Opening data in a file format that does not contain personal data can, at its easiest, take the work input of less than an hour.

Hri.fi’s website template was developed in cooperation with the six largest cities in Finland, in the Open data and APIs key project of the 6Aika cooperation strategy. HRI will further develop the website template in cooperation with the cities of Tampere and Oulu. The website template is provided as open-source code.

Organisation of the data opening process at the Finnish Meteorological Institute

At the Finnish Meteorological Institute, tasks related to open data are part of the job descriptions of experts in different fields (including application development, datasets and communications). At the annual level, approximately three person-years are used on work associated with open data. The activities within the Institute are directed by an Open data steering group, in which all parties involved in handling the Institute's open data are represented. The steering group consists of 15 people representing management (heads of departments and units), data producers, application developers and communications.

Process definition

This section describes how the data opening process can be defined and realised in the organisation.

A predefined process clarifies the opening of data, as it involves several different work stages. The purpose of the process is to ensure that all essential matters are completed. This section contains some practical examples of the processes used by different organisations.

Before defining the process, it is a good idea to form an overall picture by surveying the information systems that are in use in the organisation and describing the data contained in them as metadata. The surveying of information systems can make use of e.g. the mapping methods presented in step 4

Opening data from old information systems can often be difficult, as these systems were rarely designed to support any data opening processes. For this reason, any attempts of opening data may require technical changes to the information system. When tendering for new information systems and renewing any previous systems or agreements, the following factors should be taken into account:

The opening of datasets should be thought of as a recurring and constantly evolving process. The process should take into account the life cycle of the entire dataset, from its opening to the storage of potentially historical data. See e.g. the Archives Act presented in step 2 of the operating model. As far as possible, it is advisable to start the process of opening the data with simple sets, later progressing to more extensive and complex datasets. Once the organisation has laid the foundations for opening data and generated the competence required for this, the data opening process may require less resources in the future.

The process should be created and developed openly in cooperation with stakeholders. The stakeholder cooperation process should start with the identification of the needs of said stakeholders. For example, the methods presented in step 4 of the operating model can be used in this identification process.

The process of opening data can be implemented, for example, in the following way: 

  1. Identify potential data to be opened
  2. Assess the possibility of opening the data and the associated potential risks
  3. Make a decision on opening the data and publish it as open data
  4. Ensure that the data is maintained and communicated about properly
  5. Support data users and measure the utilisation of opened data for further development

Image: Example of the data opening process

At the practical level, different organisations define and implement their data opening processes in different ways. The opening of data can be carried out as an internal process on an organisation-specific basis, or in a uniform manner in cooperation with other organisations. While a large proportion of openly distributed data has been defined and shared in accordance with each organisation’s own processes, data sharing is increasingly being examined and defined in cooperation with other parties managing similar types of data. Below is a list of examples of different data opening processes used by various organisations.

Examples of organisation-specific process descriptions for opening data

City of Espoo 

The City of Espoo has produced an operating model for ensuring data protection and information security when opening data (in Finnish, pdf) to support the formulation and development of consistent practices for publishing data.

Helsinki Region Infoshare

The common Helsinki Region Infoshare service of the cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area has produced a description of the data opening process with practical instructions. Read more on the HRI website:

The Finnish Environment Institute

The Finnish Environment Institute has made a decision to use open data licence CC BY 4.0 when sharing open data. The Institute additionally has a research data policy that aims to support the openness and impact of research data.

See the Figure below for an overview of the stages of opening data at the Finnish Environment Institute. The initiative to open a dataset usually comes from its producer or the person responsible for it. Before opening the dataset, any restrictions related to sharing it are examined (personal data, secret data or classified information). If there are no restrictions to prevent the opening, or the dataset can be opened after generalising or reducing the data, a decision to publish the dataset as open data can be made. Sharing the data may also involve obligations arising from directives (including the INSPIRE Directive), which must be observed.

As the decision to open the dataset is made, the responsibilities and schedules related to sharing it are agreed upon, while also taking into account the need to maintain the dataset and its metadata in the future. In addition, the data content and structure of the dataset to be opened are determined, converting the dataset into a data product while also addressing user needs and any obligations associated with the dataset. The metadata for the dataset is drawn up before the data is opened. Open datasets and APIs are published on the Finnish Environment Institute's open data website and the metadata on the Institute’s metadata service. The metadata included in the open data is also transferred through the API to, for example, the Open Data service and, in the case of metadata concerning spatial data covered by the INSPIRE Directive, to the spatial data directory of the National Land Survey of Finland.

Examples of common processes for opening data

Municipalities’ financial information

Since 2021, municipalities and joint municipal authorities have reported their financial information to the State Treasury. They can submit their reports to the local government financial information service as XBRL or CSV attachments or by using Suomi.fi Data Exchange Layer. A separate Excel data entry application can be used to generate data in XBRL format, which is a temporary solution for reporting. In the local government financial information service, municipalities and joint municipal authorities can report, approve and view their financial information. The transition to reporting and publishing the data in a specific format creates an opportunity to, once it has been reported, put the financial information to new, system-independent uses.

The financial information reported to the local government information service is published through an open API as well as on the Exploreadministration.fi service once the municipality or joint municipal authority has approved the data it has reported in the service. Some of the cost data to be reported concerns only a few municipal residents. Examples of this include the cost data of a certain health service in a small municipality. The State Treasury aggregates cost data of this type and publishes it at a higher level.

The transition to automated financial reporting also supports other automation of financial administration in municipalities and joint municipal authorities, including e-invoices, e-receipts or accounting specifications. Read more about the reporting of financial information (in Finnish).

Municipalities’ purchase invoice data

The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities has prepared guidelines for municipalities and joint municipal authorities for publishing their purchase invoice data as open data. Municipalities open this data on a voluntary basis, as they are under no legal obligation to do so. Opening the data may be useful, however, as it promotes the municipality’s transparency, strengthening democracy and supporting a cost-conscious approach. Opening purchase invoice data residing in the municipality’s financial administration systems in a format that is more easily usable and accessible to anyone can also help in the planning and management of the municipality's activities. Many municipalities of different sizes have opened their purchase invoice data, including the City of Helsinki, City of Hämeenlinna, City of Kauniainen and City of Valkeakoski. Read the instructions for opening purchase invoice data (in Finnish).

National Suomi.fi Finnish Service Catalogue (FSC)

Organisations providing services for citizens and other organisations can use the Suomi.fi Finnish Service Catalogue to maintain uniform information on their services and the service channels associated with them. More than 4,000 people in around 700 organisations, mainly in local and central government but also to an increasing extent in companies and organisations, produce data for the Finnish Service Catalogue.

The information in the Finnish Service Catalogue is available as open data free of charge. The benefits include the fact that the information concerning the services described in the Finnish Service Catalogue is in a harmonised format and easily reusable in third-party services.

The open data in the Finnish Service Catalogue is available on the Open Data Service.

Service catalogue of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area

The cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area have a joint Service Point Register and Service Map, which contain a large volume of data on different services of the cities, their locations and opening hours and similar.

Through the branch register API used to produce the Service Map, parties outside the cities can also access and use the data through both a REST and WFS API. The information for the service is produced by the municipalities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and the information collection is coordinated at City Executive Office, from where it is transferred to the Finnish Service Catalogue contents through an API. In addition, open source code is used in the Service Map, for example allowing other cities to set up corresponding services. This makes it possible to open data from a wider area in a harmonised format.

Read more about the Service Map in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and the City of Turku's Service Map. The latter originated as an open source application created by the City of Helsinki, and it is being developed collaboratively.

Support materials on the topic

This section contains support material related to the topics discussed in this step.

Training courses on the data.europa.eu website: