The head of data processing department
Engineering studies in Padua and then off to the USA for a MBA. He has worked at Siemens, Texas Instruments, HP, Wang, Apollo, developing electronic devices and sequential controls, to be precise. Hugo Leiter has been heading the data processing department in the South Tyrolean municipalities Consortium for the last 22 years. The municipalities Consortium, together with the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and the TIS Innovation Park South Tyrol, started to work on the OpenGISDta.eu project in 2010.
How did you first hear about Open Data?
Of course, thanks to my job at the municipalities Consortium of South Tyrol. That's how I first heard about Open Data and Free Software. For example, in the year 2000, together with the University of Bolzano and Limerick, as well as with some other private companies from Hungary, Germany and Italy, we collaborated on the EU Commission funded project COSPA (Consortium for Open Source Software in the Public Administration) to introduce Free Software in public administration. The municipalities Consortium continually supported the cities and towns in their first steps with Open Software. In 2010, together with the province of Bolzano and TIS innovation park, we started the OpenGISData.eu project: it aims to manage all of South Tyrol's street addresses, as well as house numbers, in OpenStreetMap.
What are OpenGISData's goals?
OpenGISData.eu is surely an innovative step, judging by its present success. The aim of the project is to guarantee open and easy accessible geodata to everyone who needs it. OpenStreetMap and OpenWeatherMap are two open databases. Programmers from all over the world can develop apllications using these databases without having to run after licenses. The pool of open databases and their apps are growing day by day: new data are inserted and offered to the whole world. The advantage lies in the fact that data which may not be of much interest to global players like Google, are useful in OpenStreetMap. That is how OSM, thanks to the whole community, can grow to become an exhaustive geographic information system.
What do Open Data mean for citizens?
Open Data mean accessibility and free access to all kind of data for everyone. All data which have been paid and managed by public administration, are normally accessible to anyone anyway – the only exception are personal data. The only hurdle to overcome is that you may be required to pay a copyright fee for the provided material. Open Data are a step forward the citizens can benefit from. With these new data, they can develop new applications, which provide information on our daily lives and make our lives easier. The whole concept of Open Data is that everyone can use them in whatever way they want, even for commercial purposes.
What kind of Open Data are we talking about?
Geodata, for example. Address information, to be precise, such as commercial companies or hotels, monuments, which are managed by public administration. Other data may include blue prints, building permits, the occupation of public ground, markets, streets, excavations, advertising spaces, solar energy plants, etc. Around 70 % of decisions made by public administration are about geodata. Beneficiaries of Open Data are software producers, who can work on these data, and regular citizens, who can use their apps. That is what Open Data is all about.
What are the advantages of Open Software and Open Data?
Public administration should be sensible towards expenses regarding software, if we think about the value of the investment. There's no questioning the huge potential for saving costs and gaining independence from one single provider. TIS innovation park impressively demonstrated what open access to Open Data means at the first South Tyrolean Hackathon in 2013. A good example was a rain app developed by two young hackers, who used freely accessible weather data for their smartphone programme. The same applies to all openly accessible, manageable, usable and combinable data. For example, public administration collected all addresses: for this reason, it seems only logical to me that these data should be freely accessible to everyone. I welcome this tendency, which is greatly supported in South Tyrol. A lot of data are already available, but not always in a simple, digital and manageable form. There's a lot of room for improvement in this case.
Website of municipalities Consotium of South Tyrol http://www.gvcc.net