So how did it go with TARTU OPEN DATA?

March 06, 2016
A very awesome event about Open Data in Tartu with a gigantic turnup. Read on what went down in mere 2 hours!

In 2012, a law passed in Estonia which states that whenever possible and appropriate, public institutions will make their data open and accessible to everyone in machine readable format. What is Open Data, you ask? It's data you can freely use without having to ask anyone's permission or applying to anywhere. The deadline for adopting this law was last year, and the City of Tartu now plans to go down that route. 

In order to find out what sort of data is expected from the general public, an Open Data event was put together with the hopes of getting some insight. Also, an Open Data hackathon is in the works at Garage48 and should take place this fall.

This Saturday witnessed an event with the biggest amount of alert and active seminar participants we've ever seen at the Garage48 HUB Tartu. The turnup was great – 87 people arrived to take part in the seminar, and it resulted in some pretty neat ideas. I mean seriously, we didn't even have catering! :) Those were some civic minded people.

At first, Tartu City officials gave a rough overview what sort of data they have, what's available at the moment, how can it be accessed and what are the plans in the next few years. Of course, as one might figure, regardless the myriad of registries and what not, only a fraction of data is readily accessible to citizens, and much of it is in a form that is not very usable. At the moment, the city council is in the process of changing platforms and migrating data, also creating data bundles, and Tartu Open Data could be accessed starting from 2018 when all the necessary tasks have been completed.

In a lot of the cases, the city council actually helps to collect the data and doesn't own it as the databases are owned by the government. To make all of it accessible would call for a much bigger scale of initiative from the government. For this, Tartu could actually be a trailblazer.

Jaak Vilo from Tartu University educated everyone by introducing what is common knowledge among the open data aficionados, namely - the concept of FAIR data. This means that open data is truly open only if it is:


Later it was added by Urmas Kõljalg who made a short presentation about NATARC and showed us the Pluto F platform, that the data also has to be Citable - who's data it is and where did it come from.

As an interesting fact - it is currently unclear if the council's databases would be able to hold up bigger traffic if, say, a commercial app would be using the data. All in all, it's still pretty awesome to have such a dialogue with the local government and have the opportunity to turn Tartu into a true IT-city. Of course there shall be roadblocks as we're still in the beginning but the future sure looks interesting.

At the moment there are already countless interesting Open Data projects going around the world. For an example, there is an interactive map of Amsterdam where you can see when the houses have been built. Similar projects have sprung up also for Brooklyn and other places, not to mention Tartu itself (see links at the end of this post).

After the presentations, Priit Salumaa and Märt Põder encouraged people to suggest ideas to be discussed in the workshop. At first a bit slowly, we still ended up with 12 ideas, some of which were grouped together for discussion, resulting in 7 polished presentations. Groups were given half an hour to discuss their subjects and find answers to the what, the why and if it can be turned into a useful product or service prototype in 48 hours during the open data hackathon taking place this fall.

The ideas were as follows:

1. Kindergartens, schools and planning

Better kindergarten and schools related planning to match the demand and supply 2-3 years in advance so there is no surprises. A constantly changing system that takes into account real needs of real people living in specific areas, to aid urban planning in Tartu. This information could also be commercialised by companies who offer area comparison services for people thinking about moving, and those looking for a way to swap their child's school or kindergarten spot.

2. City planning/city data

General idea is to develop a multilayered interactive map with several layers of information. First two ideas for layers were parks and buildings. Using mobile positioning services, it can be determined which parks are actively in use and should be kept as parks and which ones are underused and therefore could either be used for buildings or repurposed, redeveloped. For the buildings layer, information there would have data about accessibility, energy efficiency, safety, overall price levels etc. 

3. Budget expenditures and government decisions

This group came up with three different app ideas:

  • Expenditure maps 

  • Subscribe to decision (notifications, tracking) 

  • Voting search 
The aim of these apps is to visualise and raise awareness of where and how the public money is being used, subscribe to topics of interest discussed in the government and follow them in different stages and finally, to know what specific politicians voted for.

4. Crime / Danger / Violence

During hackathon build a website and app, Crime report APP which would feature coordinates and specifics of crime there. This would predict future location or future crimes and visualize current crime levels.

5. Open Data on employment

A career choice guide that would rely on long term projection of various industries' demand which would also help build relevant knowledge and plan education.

6. Tourist attractions

A platform that promotes tourism by attracting tourists with information about anything a tourist might need, from accommodation to unique buildings and souvenir shops.

7. Biodiversity

Two apps: a map of green areas like parks and water bodies from the city, combined with nature observation database, species occurrences in city space, environmental information. And environmental pollution (citizen data) notification app to notify citizens from air conditions (allergy alert, air pollution).

All groups are welcome to participate in an open data hackathon this fall. The information about the hackathon will be available on Garage48 website in around when everyone's back from their summer holidays and then some. All teams are welcome to rent a meeting room or a desk in any Garage48 HUB to get a project off the ground beforehand.

For inspiration:

AMSTERDAM STARTUP SCENE (Isn't it awesome something like that exists? We should have this in Tartu!)

Download SUMMARIES of the finished presentations here:


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