Posted on 08-07-2013
The 14th of June 2013 a second edition of the Flemish Open Data Day took place in ‘het Boudewijngebouw’ which hosts the main datacenter of the Flemish government in Brussels. Not only authoritative international speakers succeeded to attract public attention, also Apps for Flanders was responsible for a great deal of interest. The event Apps for Flanders/Business Lounge proved that Flemish developers – with some guidance – are able to launch innovative and viable open data applications that may find their way into many smartphones and tablets for users of all kind.
‘Open data’ are the next big thing in the world of ICT – so is being said for quite a while now. In this context, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and the founder of W3C, propagates (also already quite a while) the semantic web or Web 3.0 where all data and applications could be aligned and integrated. To make this possible, data have to be ‘open’: they should be freely available for everyone to be used, republished and linked to other data, without restriction. But open data require open standards: not only the data but also the formats in which they communicate with one another should be accessible for everyone, hence: identical. The Flemish ICT organisation V-ICT-OR is pioneering in this field. With the OSLO-project they developed a standard which makes it possible for local administrations to manage data of citizens in a more efficiënt, customer-friendly and smarter way.
In close cooperation with V-ICT-OR, the Open Knowledge Foundation Belgium and i-Minds Multimedia Lab, The Flemish Government organised the Apps for Flanders business lounge on the second Flemish Open Data Day. Apps for Flanders endorses the values and goals of Apps for Europe. Also Apps for Flanders wishes to stimulate both governances and app developers to get to work with open data and to valorise them socially and economically.
To realise these goals, programming contests took place in Flanders where opened datasets served as the basis for the development of new digital applications. In previous editions participants worked with data sets from local and central governments as Ghent, Antwerp and the Flemish government, but also from a thematic perspective, such as geographic information and labor market data.
What were the lessons learned from these contests? On the one hand, a lot of creativity and know-how exists in Flanders to develop smart applications based on open data sets. On the other hand, solid business models to bring these apps to the market and make them viable are often lacking. Therefore, Apps for Flanders was organised within the format of a business lounge and a team of experts was invited to coach the selected contestants to develop solid business models during one intensive day.
The format of a business lounge might serve as a good practice for other members within the Apps for Europe consortium, so we will give a brief overview of the day.
First, Hans Tubbax of the Business Competence Centre (BICC) of Thomas More University College gave an inspiring presentation on the challenges and hazards of app building. He compared pursuers off the killer app with climbers of the Mount Everest. To reach ‘the top of apps’, drive and endurance is needed and one must realise that on the way to the top there’s a traffic jam: today 896.720 apps are active and 790 new ones are released daily… To reach the top the assistance of ‘Sherpa’s’ – experts in finding the competetive business models needed – is indispensable.
Secondly, the ‘Sherpa’s’ came in. After a warning that “no business plan survives first contact with a customer”, Peter Bertels of Flanders DC led a brainstorm to list all aspects of a succesfull business plan. Thereafter the contestants were ready for finetuning the presentations of their apps guided by individual coaches.
Finally, the pitching session followed. A jury of experts nominated three winning apps based on the following questions. Is the market for the app well known and how is it achieved? Is the revenue model realistic? What is the economic and social value of the app? How reliable are the open data sets that were used? The best answers made it possible to select three winning apps.
The third prize of € 2000 went to Enerxia, an app that raises the awareness of citizens about their energy consumption by means of a gamification approach. The game simulates the use of energy in a certain city and stimulates the player to reflect upon the value of sustainable energy and energy saving efforts.
The second prize of € 3000 went to Pinitag. With Pinitag! It is possible to report annoyances in the public space of cities to responsibles within the minute. The intelligent app decides to which city service the pinned and tagged report has to be sent.
The ultimate winner was the app Nostalgeo which combines contemporary streetviews with old postcards and creates streetviews of the past. During real walks, Nostalgeo also allows taking virtual walks through the past. The jury expects that many people in Flanders and Europe will use this app during touristic visits of cities and regions. Also the representative of minister Bourgeois, responsible for Administrative Affairs, was enthousiastic about Nostalgeo because it puts the old and the new sights of Flanders in the picture in an innovative and user centered way. The team behind Nostalgeo received € 5000.
All three winners look forward to take part in the contest of Apps for Europe. Thanks to the input of the business lounge they became aware that an app needs more than technical data managing skills. Also a solid business plan is primordial to make the difference.