The Dutch city of Amsterdam is relying on open source software to build and deploy solutions that combine geographic maps and other data. These solutions make life easier for the city’s maintenance crews, police, fire and rescue services, and ease interactions between citizens and the administration. Using open source allows the capital to create and launch new services fast.
“All of the city’s departments have taken note,” says Boris van Hoytema, an open source consultant assisting the Amsterdam data department. The department, with just over 50 developers, is now leveraging its open data collection to turn out smart city solutions one after another. One well-known example is the Klaag (‘Complain’) smartphone app, which lets citizens report nuisances and public disturbances. “Open source is an essential enabler of the city’s business processes,” Van Hoytema says.
Last December, Van Hoytema presented the Amsterdam data department’s open source policy at the Paris Open Source Summit. The department’s Github page includes source code for a citizen engagement solution, open data APIs, a web service for authorisation, and other software.
According to Van Hoytema, Amsterdam has realised that its continuous processing of data makes the city essentially a software organisation. “Public policy is code executed by humans. Source code is policy executed by machines,” he said. A new generation of IT policymakers realise that the city must stay in control, and so IT contracts must avoid delegating control to software vendors.
The Amsterdam data department is actively contacting similar units in other cities, including Barcelona (Spain), Helsinki (Finland) and Århus (Denmark), Van Hoytema explained in Paris. “We are already sharing challenges and solutions, and are now finding ways to work together and govern our common open source projects.”