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Winter Updates from Belgium

Pieter Colpaert - January 31, 2013 in OK Belgium, Open Knowledge international Local Groups, WG Open Transport

Belgium has been quiet for a while, but that doesn’t mean less busy. In fact, we’ve been so busy that from time to time we forgot to communicate! We hope to solve this with this winter update.

Open Transport

We love transport data. Our Open Transport Working Group, iRail, has just netted a front-end engineering contract for SoLoMIDEM, a project to develop an identity manager. SoLoMIDEM stands for Social Location Mobile Identity Manager, and is part of an effort to integrate iRail and Viking Spots with Facebook, Twitter and so on. You’ll be able to use any of these services to let people know what you’re doing, where you’re going and how late your train is going to be. And if you have to wait for your train to arrive, you’ll be able to look up interesting spots near your location. Ultimately, the aim is to create a single service that acts as a proxy to all the other networks, so developers can just connect to one service.

Summer Of Code 2013

The iRail Summer of code (#iSoc13) is an event where students are hired during the first three weeks of July to work, as a summer job, on projects concerning mobility and/or open data. The location of iSoc is in Ghent, the natural habitat of most of our students and the place in Belgium where the most web innovation happens; furthermore, they all work in the same place, allowing cross-pollination between the projects. In order to finance these students, other organisations can sponsor the iRail NPO to work on a project of choice.

We are looking for project sponsors, project ideas, and student job applications. And if you want to help us organise it, that’s more than welcome as well! Anything can be mailed towards board at

Apps for Europe – help needed!

Another project that’s keeping us super-busy is the EU-funded “Apps for Europe”. The project is looking at how Apps events are designed and managed so as to maximise their impact and sustainability. As part of the project, we’re helping organise a whole load of Apps events, on a local, national and thematic basis. To make these work, we need you! Check out the websites and [get in touch](mailto: for more info!

We Open Data

We’ve launched an exciting new working group, called “We Open Data.” The group is for freelancers who have knowledge about open data tools (such as CKAN and The DataTank). They give consulting under the name We Open Data to local governments, ICT departments, and so on. The group has already notched up a couple of cool projects, including a tourism initiative for West Flanders, a job database for Flanders, and two local data portals, and

The group will also be working with iMinds on an important project for the Flemish government, developing an innovative open data platform that will ultimately be rolled out at all administrative levels. The project was announced by Innovation Minister Ingrid Liten, who said:

“A strong government is a transparent and efficient government. It shares its useful information with its citizens. Therefore I resolutely opt for open data as a principle for the government.”

And also…

  • The Belgian branch of Creative Commons was (re)launched on the 8th December at iMAL. We’re in the process of finalising our formalities with CC-HQ, should be officially up and running by February.
  • COngratulations to our friends at Ontoforce on their successful funding bid to develop their disQover tool, which powers our schoolKID app!
  • We’re really pleased to welcome two new colleagues, Michiel Vancoillie who joins us as a programmer, and Mathias Van Compernolle who’s going to be coordinating Apps For X.
  • We’ve moved! We have changed offices temporarily to the iMinds start-up garage, a lovely new home!

Urban Data Challenge

Theodora Middleton - January 18, 2013 in External, Sprint / Hackday, WG Open Transport

Calling all Transport Hackers!

The Urban Data Challenge has launched, a semi-competitive open transport data hacking spree featuring datasets from San Francisco, Geneva, and Zurich. The idea is to merge and compare the mobility datasets, and see what new insights can be drawn.

From their website:

Buses, trams, bicycles, pedestrians, and cars zoom about modern cities like blood pulsing through the body. But with urban growth comes challenges—one of them is how to improve transportation. Luckily, advances in technology combined with active open data and open source movements mean the citizenry can increasingly become part of the solution. Unclog the arteries, stimulate circulation.
Winning projects will showcase the power of open governmental data and facilitate the knowledge exchange between cities. Juried prizes include round-trip airfare to one of the participating cities and funding from Fusepool, the European / Swiss Datapool, for developing the project into an app.Winning projects will showcase the power of open governmental data and facilitate the knowledge exchange between cities. Juried prizes include round-trip airfare to one of the participating cities and funding from Fusepool, the European / Swiss Datapool, for developing the project into an app.

Check out the website for more details, and have a look at this great visualisation of citizen mobility through cellular data “Ville Vivante”, for a bit of inspiration!

Ville Vivante Trailer from Interactive Things on Vimeo.

Open Transport Data Manifesto

Theodora Middleton - November 6, 2012 in Open Data, WG Open Transport

Loving this infographic, which explains and launches the Open Transport Data Manifesto:

Helsinki Open Transport Data Manifesto

The Manifesto is the product of an ePSI workshop which took place in Helsinki in September in the run-up to OKFest, ‘Transport Data – fueling mobility of the future and smart cities’. 33 participants from 15 countries came together, to discuss the current situation in opening up transport data across Europe, the dreams and potential as well as the barriers and possible types of solutions to overcome them.

Marc de Vries, from ePSI says:

The Manifesto and visualisation capture and highlight the Open Transport Data potential at hand, the obstacles and accordingly allocating the responsibilities to meet these challenges to the appropriate stakeholders. As such, they seek to stimulate dialogue between stakeholders by identifying transport data specific issues, that are hampering the free flow across Europe.

And from the Manifesto:

Transportation is an important contemporary issue, which has a direct impact on economic strength, environmental sustainability and social equity. Accordingly, transport data … represents on of the most valuable sources of public sector information … This Manifesto calls upon policy makers (at the EU, national, local and sectoral levels), transport operators (from the public and private sectors), and data users to seize the opportunities and reap the benefits, by opening up and sharing data resources, cashing in on the enormous potential to be exploited.

The full Manifesto document is available here.

If you’d like to get involved in the conversation, why not sign up for the OKFN’s Open Transport Working Group.

Videos and full proceedings from the workshop are on the ePSI blog. You can also get a high-res version of the infographic here.

SNCF launches a debate on open transport data in France

Theodora Middleton - December 15, 2011 in External, Open Data, WG Open Transport

The following guest post is by Pieter Colpaert from iRail npo and Pierre Chrzanowski, and was reviewed by Regards Citoyens. Pieter and Pierre are both members of our brand new Working Group on Open Transport – watch this space for a full announcement of the working group’s activities and details on how to get involved!”

At first sight, you may think that is the new open data website of the SNCF, the National Corporation of French Railways. Not yet. The company preferred to launch a consultation website before opening up its data. Anyone can add their thoughts on open transport data on

In a country struggling to involve the transport industry in the open data movement, this initiative is most welcome. After the release of, we hope transport data will soon be part of the available datasets. The lack till today of open transport data in France led independent initiatives to extract the data without authorisation, placing them in legal insecurity. A change by SNCF is therefore really welcome.

Although SNCF seems to be ready for open data, other public transport operators in France are still reluctant. RATP, the state-owned subway operator for Paris area, recently refused to let other app developers use its map for free. This inspired CheckMyMetro, a startup which was forced to remove the RATP map from its smartphone application, to organize a subway map design contest.

As a lot of organizations are launching similar debates on open data, it is important that they rightfully apply the word “open” and that while doing this they know how to gain an added value for themselves and their customers. is a great opportunity to remind the SNCF and other transport actors in Europe of the actual meaning of the word “open” and to help introduce a productive open data policy.

Open data for multimodal transport

Today, commuters use different types of transport to go to work or to travel across Europe. For them, access to timetables, networks maps and real-time transport data is the key to organize their journey or to get informed of disruptions. Multimodal transport is part of the last European Commission transport policy which has announced the launch of a contest for the best European multimodal journey planner. The software behind these intermodal journey planners can be as intelligent as can be, but when there is no data, the software is useless.

Some countries are already doing their part. The UK Government recently committed itself to the release of high-value transport data. Which also seems to provide a good input to answer the consultation. Here is the comprehensive list of transport data soon to be released: – Rail timetable information on a weekly basis – Real-time running data from Network Rail – Location about Great Britain Rail Network and GB rail network stations – Traveline National Dataset on a weekly basis (Great Britain buses) – Next Buses API of planned and real-time information at 350 000 GB bus stops

There are already many journey planner apps offered either by transport companies or developed by independent developer teams, but only a few can help you to organize your journey across the whole EU – deutschebahn offers the closest. Furthermore, with open data, there are new services to come that transport companies did not think about.

Transport innovation through real open data

By starting a debate on open data, wants to take the first steps towards clearing the path for innovative services. The definition of open data is clear and not debatable. As defined by the Open Knowledge Foundation: “A piece of content or data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share-alike”. This means data need to be released for free in an open license and available in open formats. The French statements on open data also give a clear definition of what “open” means. SNCF could then choose to open its datasets either under the new French Open License or among other open licenses available like the ODbL, already in use in different French cities. On open formats, the 5 star-ranking of the W3C is a good reference. But open transport data is part of an industry and a new market. If we want to help developers to develop multimodal apps, the respect of standards is required.

Let’s hope this initiative from the SNCF is the beginning of a real shift towards open transport data in France and beyond.

You can participate to the SNCF debate here

The ePSIplatform is also working on a report on the re-use of transport data in Europe. You can reply to their questionnaire here.

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