Open (data) Letter from Seoul

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a ODI Seoul co-sponsored event in Seoul. Many thanks to Seonho Kim, Managing Director at ODI Seoul node and to the conference’s gracious host, R Korea.  The theme of the conference was “Open Data in Action” and the event lived up to its name.   Open Data Institute had two international nodes participating, ODI Ottawa and ODI Bristol.  I presented on how R and RStudio can be used to expand the horizons of open data.  Katherine Rooney of ODI Bristol talked about citizen science sensors and the Bristol Approach.  Our hosts kindly provided simultaneous translation so that the attendees could listen to our presentations.

Katherine Rooney explains the Bristol Approach

Katherine Rooney explains the Bristol Approach

Even though the rest of the conference was in Korean, it was easy to understand that Korea has the same aspirations and challenges as everyone else in the world who are dealing with open data.  Presentations included open data policy, smart city and IOT considerations, and a variety of visualization projects.

Open Data In Action Track 1 Agenda

Open Data In Action Track 1 Agenda

As part of my presentation on R and RStudio, I decided to use a Seoul-based open dataset as my primary use case.  I found the Seoul Open Data Plaza and, with the assistance of Google Translate, selected one of Seoul Open Data Plaza’s most popular downloads, hourly Seoul Subway boarding and deboarding data.  The data seemed to be hourly averages for an entire month.  I rode the subway system from Incheon Airport to the Pangyo district to get a better understanding of the Seoul public transit system.  The presentation was well attended and I hope the audience got a taste of the Canadian open data experience.

Seoul subway data provided by Seoul City Traffic and Transportation Policy Division through the Seoul Open Data Plaza.

Seoul subway data provided by Seoul City Traffic and Transportation Policy Division through the Seoul Open Data Plaza.

After my presentation I learned that one of the reasons the subway boarding and deboarding data was such a popular download was because journalists and citizen activists were using the data to back claims to the size of public protests calling for the resignation of the South Korean president.  Police estimated only 260,000 protesters were involved on November 12th, protesters claim up to 1 million people were present.  As is the case all over the world, seemingly innocuous open data can find important applications that can redefine the relationship between governments and their citizens.

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