Open Innovation Transforms Data for the Public Good

Published Feb-14-11

Innovative apps receive recognition in Finland’s ‘Apps for Democracy’ open innovation contest.

Government of Finland, Finland

The Story:

Open Innovation Transforms Data for the Public Good Streams of raw data of themselves are not interesting, but they can be turned into useful applications that are of great benefit to citizens. For a number of years open innovation has been transforming government data into creative solutions with real world advantages.

Open Democracy

In 2009 Finland hosted its very first ‘Apps for Democracy’ open innovation contest to find innovative uses for information provided by public administrations. The organizers believed firmly that the approach would be able to generate vital new tools for open democracy.

The competition was run along similar lines to contests in other countries with open public data sources being made available to citizens and organizations so that they could devise and develop apps for new kinds of public services.

Novel IT Solutions

The competition was split into two categories: one for applications ready to use and the other for ideas. Small prize money awards were granted for the top three places in each category. The money on offer for first, second and third places ranged from 400 to 3,000 Euros.

Twenty three submissions were received which were judged by a panel consisting of councilors, ministerial advisers and IT specialists.

Time and again these Apps for Democracy competitions have demonstrated that they are able to generate novel IT solutions to enhance communities, as acknowledged by the chair of the jury, Kari A. Hintikka of University of Jyväskylä.

"Using of data that has already been gathered, and recycling of data offer an enormous potential for Finland. Such data can be utilized for various purposes ranging from environmental use to traffic use. We can use it to contribute to the way our society develops, and it can help in giving birth to new businesses."

Prize Winners

The winner of the Ideas category was Peter Tattersall for ‘Tax Tree’. This visualizes public administration finances by using the metaphor of a tree. The roots represent income from various taxes which flow into the trunk, the branches are expenses and the leaves and fruits are the benefits. The second place in the Ideas category went to Samuli Sairanen for ‘Parliament Watchdog’ an application that would provide a database of the activities of members of parliament.

In the Applications category the overall winner was a workgroup led by Tapio Nurminen for its ‘Nomen est omen’ app which allows the user to analyze the origin, social status and commonness of Finnish surnames. Second place went to 'Legiskooppi' by Dani Pärnänen, an application that distributes information on laws and motions passed by parliament which allows citizens to compare their own opinions with the choices made by the country’s leading politicians.


These open innovation apps contests enable the ordinary citizen to engage more fully in public life and create services with real and demonstrable benefits. The governments and administrations that organize and host the contests receive:

1) Genuine insights into what people really want
2) Solutions to problems
3) Fresh approaches that they may not even have thought about.

What's more they pick them up at a fraction of the cost of paying a company of developers.

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