Inspire Helsinki 2019 was a success – what is the future of data challenges?

Inspire Helsinki 2019 Epicenter

After last year’s INSPIRE conference in Antwerp, a lot of the regular visitors to the conference asked themselves where will the next INSPIRE conference be held. The answer turned out to be Helsinki, but it was not going to be the typical yearly affair. Inspire Helsinki 2019 was a change to the long running tradition of yearly INSPIRE conferences. This time the focus was more on technology and data users and based on the feedback, the event was well received. So what was different and what did we learn from Inspire Helsinki 2019?

Data Challenges and technological approach

The event was organised by the National Land Survey of Finland, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry along with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Spatineo was part of the local organisation committee and lead the organisation of the data challenges. 

Usually topics and presentations in INSPIRE conferences have been about policy related matters, information and updates on technical guidance, and news about progress in implementation. While technology has always been a part of the conferences, this time it was decided the event should focus on both technology and data users.

The event hosted a number of workshops and data challenges. Challenges were hosted by our challenge partners who designed challenges where data was to be used to solve a problem or help people in their day to day lives. There were four challenges ranging from testing INSPIRE infrastructure to improving day to day commuting:

More information and the webinars related to the challenges can be found from the links above.

Why Data Challenges?

INSPIRE Conferences have been hosted by and for the people working on INSPIRE policy and implementation. This format has worked well, and was especially important in the early days of INSPIRE implementation, but as more and more data has been published, more and more people have been asking about presentations on how the data is actually used. In the Inspire Helsinki 2019 event we specifically set  out to address this issue.

Five teams who had produced submissions to the challenges presented at the event and they showed their solutions. Their works ranged from identifying landslide hazards to bike route planning while avoiding bad weather to analyzing best vacation areas using machine learning methods. You can read more about all five submissions on the challenge website.

The room where the teams presented their solutions was packed with standing room only and feedback from the audience sent a clear message that there is a need in the community to reach out and hear back from developers using open data. I feel there are two important factors here: 1) seeing how data is used is a real motivator for service providers – it is difficult to get excited about opening data if you don’t see how that work can impact society and people, 2) the developers using data benefit from a connection to the service providers – being able to ask questions and provide feedback, to have a dialogue between the provider and user, is crucial for developing a true ecosystem.

The winners were announced on the last day of the event and JRC sponsors one member of each team who presented at the event to attend the Dubrovnik INSPIRE Conference in 2020!

From Helsinki to Dubrovnik

As the dust settles in Helsinki, it is a good time to start thinking about how we can as a community, to make future INSPIRE Conferences even better. INSPIRE, while not complete, is ready for use and as such, should reach out to data users and developers. This requires dialogue: meeting people and getting the word out of the confines of the comfortable INSPIRE implementation bubble. The Helsinki Data Challenges were well received and I feel we were able to start the dialogue between data providers and users. We really hope that this good spirit and communication is carried over and continued in upcoming INSPIRE conferences as well!

Spatineo will be once again attending the upcoming event in Dubrovnik, and we’re thrilled to see how INSPIRE events can evolve over time towards a better more inclusive ecosystem.

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