During our short three weeks the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team met with more than 40 organizations and 70 individuals spanning government, business, and academia. The generosity of knowledge sharing gave us a diverse introduction to the city. We walk away from the project sad to leave such a wonderful city! But also with a view that Thessaloniki, and Greece broadly, is a place of rich heritage, vast beauty and incredible potential.
Amidst dramatic challenges both economic and social, Thessaloniki has shown itself to be a city of immense resilience. This was one of the factors that played into the city receiving the competitive IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant ahead of more than 100 other applicants.
Under the leadership of Mayor Boutaris, we saw noteworthy progress toward modernization and openness that has improved the city for citizens and businesses. His administration has elevated the culture of the city, and it has become a model for other municipalities seeking best practices to address economic challenges by facilitating trade and harnessing tourism and culture.
One of the most promising observations was the deep wealth of human capital including entrepreneurs, students, NGOs, tech developers, and creatives. This collective means the city has a high concentration of data producers and potential users.
We believe that Thessaloniki’s move toward an Open Data approach is quite achievable, with a solid beginning underway. With the right level of commitment, open data could fuel local innovation, enhance city insights, decision-making and transparency, and improve services for residents and visitors.
Our key findings based on stakeholder sessions will not be surprising as there was a consistent echo across all communities on the barriers to openness and data sharing. Five areas came into focus: policies, varied views on open data, organizational silos and cultural practices, technical governance, and resources.
As we looked across these issues our belief is that they can be resolved with the right level of public and private sector commitment. An Open Data dashboard that benefits all stakeholders would be one important outcome, but there will be many other city, citizen and private sector benefits as well.
We’ve outlined our top-level recommendations to Mayor Boutaris, Lina Liakou, Deputy Mayor and Chief Resilience Officer, and other city leaders. We focused on these five key areas: public policies that require data sharing, clarity of mission for greater unity across stakeholders, steps to strengthen and further collaboration, technical governance to promote trust, and creative ways to address budgetary and resource constraints.
The favorable response means we are well on our way to assembling the detailed report that will be shared early next year.
Again, our sincere thanks to all who met with our team. A resounding take away was the sense that Thessaloniki is teaming with professionals, public servants, entrepreneurs, and academics who are making a positive impact on the city.
It was an honor to serve Mayor Boutaris and Deputy Mayor Liakou on this important project. We would also like to thank the leadership of Aristotle University for inviting our team to speak with students. As well as the Deputy Mayor for Tourism & International Relations Spiros Pengas and the more than 40 attendees who participated in the Open Data Design Thinking workshop which we hope will serve as a model for other organizations as the city’s open data efforts progress.
We look forward to sharing our findings and continuing the dialogues in the months and years ahead as the city advances its Open Data initiative.
More on IBM’s Smarter Cities Team Thessaloniki
— Thessaloniki Smarter Cities Team // Week One
– The Universal Language of Post-it Notes
– Team Salonika Heads Back to School
– Thessaloniki: Many Stories, One Heart