One of the most esteemed mentors and speaker of the #OpenDataCy CrowdHackathon, happening this weekend in Nicosia, is the Israeli Ido Ivri. Ido will deliver a presentation during the side workshop OpenData Tech4All (Saturday 10/9, 6-8pm). The title of his presentation is “Open Data in Israel: the good, the bad and the open”.
Ido has worked at the public library of Israel on digital projects enabling public access to the data, is on the board of Wikimedia Israel, and is a volunteer at the Public Knowledge Workshop, an Israeli volunteer based NGO which promotes open government and citizen participation. Two years ago he founded ZenCity, building the platform that enables smart cities to drive their decisions with data from their citizens.
** Ido Ivri lecturing about Smart Cities in IBM Meetup.
He is passionate with Smart Cities and with his team aims to repair the disconnect between cities and citizens. DisruptCyprus.com contacted Ido and had an interesting interview with him.
- Ido tell us a bit about your background.
I’m 37 years old, and I’ve been coding and managing technological teams for well over a decade. After graduating with a Computer Science degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I started working in Check-Point (the biggest Israeli security company), then left to manage the Digital Projects for the National Library of Israel (the Israeli equivalent to the Library of Congress), where I got acquainted with the field of Open Data. While working at the Library, I started volunteering at HaSadna – the Public Knowledge Workshop, an NGO dedicated to making the Israeli government transparent and more accountable using data and open-source tech. A year and a half ago, I left the Library to co-found ZenCity, a startup which aims to repair the disconnect between cities and citizens using open data (among other things).
- So Open Data and Smart Cities. What made you start a startup in that sector?
I believe in cities, and think cities are “Smart” regardless of their technological advantages. The term “Smart Cities” is only loosely defined, but most of the so-called “Smart” projects revolve around physical services (smart lighting, better garbage collection, physical security, etc.), and disregard a central piece of the puzzle – citizens’ needs and wants. We at ZenCity believe that providing real-time, personalized data (from Open and other sources), and providing the city government with analytics on “citizen mood” and current trends based on their interactions, is central to any city that wishes to provide better service to its citizens.
- Tell us more about your startup Zen City, its story, and vision?
We are a group combining backgrounds in city planning, software, design and data-centric application development. Our main goal is to repair the two-way disconnect between citizens and their city: citizens feel they don’t have data about the city around them and turn to use proprietary and imperfect solutions for sharing and getting updates about their city life – mainly Facebook groups. Cities, on the other hand, collect citizen opinions using surveys and public participation projects – methods that are resource intensive, allow for limited participation, and provide only anecdotal data.
We’re building the ZenCity platform a citizen app that receives a feed of real-time information from the city according to his/her profile and current (from traffic updates, events, new businesses, initiatives and other notices), an algorithm that analyses citizen interactions with the data, and provides city governments with insights about topics and trends based on those interactions in real-time. We’re also combining beacons to the platform to enable citizens to get data that’s spatially relevant based on their actual locations in the city.
The platform is in early beta, and should start deployment in Israeli in November, and in 2017 we’re hoping to operate in Europe. If you want to check our platform out, it’ll be open for public display at our booth at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona.
- “Open Data in Israel: the good, the bad and the open” is the title of your presentation in the OpenData Tech4All side workshop. Tell us more what to expect to gain from the presentation and the case of Israel.
My main goal is to make the case for Open Data, demonstrate what has worked and what didn’t from the Israeli experience, and share some advice for hackers and civic activists looking to open up government databases.
- Any tips, insights or recommendations about open data in Cyprus?
I have two messages:
For government officials looking to open up data for public use – the more data you open, the easier you can create success stories that would help you open up even more data sources.
For hackers and open data activists: remember that letting go of data ownership is a process, and try to work with data providers whenever possible, you’ll get much better results – although I realize it’s not always possible or feasible.
- Do you think Open Data is the future?
For governments, it definitely is. With more data that’s open, businesses can grow and become more profitable, while citizens can ensure the government is as accountable and as effective as it should indeed be.
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