Citadel on the Move unleashes new Open Innovation opportunities across Europe by making it easier than ever before for citizen developers to access and use local open data to build smart, interactive and on-demand mobile solutions that can be used on any device, anytime, anywhere (cross-border).
The challenge Citadel initially addressed is that the power of Open Data remained untapped. Five years ago there were a small number of implementation projects that focused on technically advanced cities with active Open Data communities. There was also a growing body of Open Data standards work that likewise reflected the requirements and needs of more technically advanced stakeholders. However, at the start Citadel in 2012, little work had been done to ensure that Open Data tools and standards reflected on the ground reality of cities, many of which were under-resourced and struggling to come to terms with the fundamentals of opening and using public data.
Citadel on the Move set forth to help narrow this gap by targeting cities and citizens with little or no open data experience and enabling anyone, regardless of their technical skills, to create an app from a basic spreadsheet in a matter of minutes. The project did so by creating a number of tools that made it relatively easy to convert simple Point of Interest data formats into richer ones more suitable for app development.
In terms of tools, the two main ones underpinning the Citadel solution are Citadel Data Converter and Citadel App Generator (AGT). The former converts data from a tabular format like CSV into Citadel-JSON, the format used in Citadel templates. The Citadel JSON ensured that data from different cities could be uploaded into Citadel and harmonised to work interoperably to create cross-border apps. AGT, for its part, allows users to create a working online app on the fly. It works as an online form with a suite of options that users can select to create an app of their choice. For example, an app can be for a single city or cross-border; about Points of Interest, events or parking locations.
How Citadel Helps Improve Service Delivery
Throughout the course of its validation process Citadel facilitated bottom up insights by allowing data users (civil servants and citizens) to help data producers (cities) identify a number of recurring issues which often made it difficult to make meaningful use of government data. In the UK, for example, Manchester Council overhauled its Open Data catalogue to make it more user-friendly as a result of its involvement in the Citadel project. In Belgium, Citadel tools helped Ghent’s citizens to add more than 120 cross-border apps to the city’s growing list of services. And in France, the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux created 83 apps for local people on subjects as diverse as tourism, transport and tree locations, all with the help of Citadel tools. To date Citadel has helped more than 120 cities across the world to start opening and reusing data.
Citadel on the Move is built on simple yet powerful technologies, each of which has enabled the solution to create apps that will work in any country of the traveler’s choice.
To deliver on the project’s twin ambitions of raising awareness about Open Data and empowering people to use it, Citadel developed a number of unique tools to support the publication and reuse of Open Data.
In addition to the above tools, the Citadel website contains a wide array of documentation and support including a discussion forum, a Q&A section, video instructions and reference documents with links to Github for more advanced technical users.
Citadel tools are built using technology that can be easily scaled and replicated. The solution is also extendible in a sense that new features can be added and existing ones improved to meet evolving user needs. Citadel can also be accessed via API and several of its repositories have been published on GitHub in an attempt to improve the solution and promote collaboration within open source community more generally. The available repositories include the Application Generation Tool, PHP Converter Library, Converter GUI, JAVA Library, Liferay Converter portlet, mobile app templates (events, PoI, crowdsourcing, environment and parking) and CitySDK-Citadel script.
Citadel on the Move uses - and has contributed to - internationally recognised standards to support its data and metadata models, geolocation function in mobile apps and interoperability with other catalogues published on the web.
Citadel started life as a European project led by Flemish e-Government organisation (CORVE). The original project team consisted of 15 partners from 6 countries: CORVE, Belgium; IS-Practice, Belgium; Stad Gent, Belgium; Issy Media, France; Manchester City Council, UK; Daem, GR; Intrasoft, GR; Alfamicro, PT; iMinds, BE; ITEMS, FR; University of Derby, UK; EurActiv, BE; V-ICT-OR, BE; ATC, GR; 21c, UK
Today, a year after the official project ended, the Citadel social value initiative is still maintained and delivered by the same team of partners. (a) CORVE - Governance Lead. (b) Intrasoft & Alfamicro - Technical Support. (c) All partners - consultancy support in their geographic regions.
Citadel on the Move is led by the Flemish eGovernment Authority, CORVE, under the direction of the Minister for eGovernment and Tourism. CORVE drove the overall innovation effort and was supported by project office company IS-Practice and the advices of VICTOR, a flemish ICT network.
To ensure that Citadel on the Move was fully informed about state-of-the-art developments in the rapidly evolving Open Data sphere, CORVE implemented an advisory panel chaired by Andrew Stott, Former Director of Digital Engagement and Transparency in the United Kingdom. Andrew Stott oversaw the UK’s world leading ‘uk.data.gov’ initiative and continues to advise government from around the world on opening data. 21c Consultancy a digital transformation company specialising in open innovation helped steer the Citadel strategy.
The easy-to-use Citadel data convertor and app generation tools help cities get started on their open data journey in an effective and cost efficient way. It helps managers within organizations who have no experience of open data, or even IT in some cases, see the value in the matter of minutes as they can take a dull, dry spreadsheet and turn it into a simple visual app. It creates open data converts from data sceptics, and the supporting knowledge tools - Guide to Opening and Using Data, and, Navigating Open Data Standards (http://www.citadelonthemove.eu/en-us/cities/resources.aspx) - help cities know the elements that need to be considered when creating their own Open Data strategies. Citadel doesn’t tell people what to do, rather it aims to guide users towards what they need to be thinking about to create a strategy that works for their particular city and needs.
Because the Citadel tools have been co-designed by cities themselves - Athens, Ghent, Issy-les-Moulineaux, and Manchester - they speak to their peer cities in their own language. The success of the approach is evident in the fact over 120+ Local Administrations from 46 European countries and across all 6 continents has used the tools to open and re-use data. Collectively, these efforts have generated the following results: 640 Mobile Apps built using the Application Generator Tool; 356 Datasets published or referenced in the Citadel “Open Data Index”, in 13 categories; 18 Local Authorities opening their first dataset with Citadel; 44 1 on 1 consultations with City administrators; 63 Countries Worldwide with at least 1 Citadel Associate; 19 Associates in UK – the most for a single country
Citadel was 50% funded by the European Commission and 50% by the project partners themselves coming to a total budget of €3,800,115. The budget was spent on (a) development, testing and validation of a data convertor and app generator for the easy creation of services -without the need for ICT experts - that could work across borders, (b) research and advancement of data standards especially in the Points-of-Interest area, and (c) promotion, help and capacity building across the world for end-users in how to open and re-use data.
Outside of the original city partners, Citadel can demonstrate reuse of its tools by over 120 Local Administrations, from 46 European countries, across all 6 contents (a full list of the cities names can be found at http://www.citadelonthemove.eu/en-us/cities/currentassociates.aspx). Being able to quickly showcase value from hands-on data conversion and app generation tools has enabled many of these cities to explore open data strategies at low cost before investing in the licensing of advanced open data platforms and analytics tools.
The sustainability of project and its results was a topic of considerable attention during the funding period. Partners brainstormed different pathways to sustainability on many occasions and agreed that the best way to ensure Citadel’s existence after the final review would be by (a) pursuing a consultancy-based business model whereby each partner incorporates Citadel into his/her product portfolio, (b) providing unrestricted access to the tools for as long as possible, (c) integrating Citadel into the developer community through such platforms as GitHub and (d) transposing its vision and methods to other solutions, products or projects.