Bild von einer Stadt.

Sample data catalogue provides first-ever overview of open data in Germany’s communities

Which neighborhood do most people live in? Is there a parking space available downtown right now? Where can I charge my e-bike? Open data provide answers to these questions. For the first time, our sample data catalogue gives an overview of the open data that communities across Germany are making available to the public.

Data are becoming increasingly important for the public and for policy-making at the local level. The emergence of smart cities and smart regions means that communities can now make more data available on more topics. In addition, the pandemic is highlighting the relevance of up-to-date and freely accessible data – such as the number of new infections – for policy decisions.

A growing number of communities are making part of their data available to the public free of charge as open data. The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s new sample data catalogue now provides the first nationwide overview of which non-personal data are being published by Germany’s cities and towns. The sample data catalogue was developed jointly by the GovData portal, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the KDZ center for public administration research, and our foundation.  

Until now, a solid overview has been lacking of which open data are published by Germany’s municipalities. Anyone who wanted to use the open data of more than one city or town had to spend considerable time researching what was available. Similarly, communities have had difficulty identifying which information would be suitable for publication as open data. This gap has now been closed, thanks to the sample data catalogue for all of Germany developed by our foundation and its project partners.

The benefits of open data

The potential for positive change is great when local-level data – covering topics such as public transport, pollution levels, and the locations where accidents happen – are freely accessible. After all, such data can be used to develop a wide range of apps, for example to identify where accidents are likely to occur in a given municipality. This could allow the public to work with local authorities to develop solutions that result in safer traffic patterns, among other benefits.

Publishing open data also has an effect within the community. According to a survey of German cities and towns released by the Bertelsmann Stiftung last summer, the greatest benefit is the ability to better inform the public. In addition, many of the survey’s respondents believe that making open data available also improves the exchange of data among public administrators themselves – since it dismantles data silos, whose existence has been highlighted by the current pandemic. “All too often, health authorities in Germany still use fax machines. That makes it impossible to deploy or forward the data directly. It is imperative that communities invest in modern data management methods, including publishing open data. That would generate the greatest benefit from local-level data,” says Mario Wiedemann, municipal affairs expert at our foundation.

Data grouped by topic

So far, over 140 municipalities in Germany have made community-level information available as open data. This includes many major cities, from Kiel to Munich, as well small and medium-sized towns. The sample data catalogue groups the data by some 60 different community-related topics. Interested users can access the catalogue to view all open data from any given community, for example, or the data from different cities and towns pertaining to a certain topic. This makes it easier to compare data and can also inspire local authorities to publish additional open data. The national catalogue was created automatically using a machine-learning algorithm. It will be updated on a regular basis.

Online event

The sample data catalogue was presented during an online event on March 4, 2021. Titled "More Open Data in Municipalities," the event also included short talks by speakers who shed light on the topic of open data at the local level, especially for interested users unfamiliar with the subject.