Gavà, Spain: Thriving and Efficient Open Data

June 26, 2019 by Melissa Crowe

Gavà, Spain: Thriving and Efficient Open Data

Photo credit: Ferran Pestaña/Flickr

Eight years ago, the city of Gavà, Spain, hired Eduard Gil Carbo as city manager. His expectation was to address three main priorities: improve the city's finances, launch efficiency programs, and drive toward thriving accountability.

Back then, he knew there was only one way to accomplish his three directives at once: open data. However, finding the right open data software proved to be a challenge.

"A tool powerful enough to accomplish our objectives doesn't exist locally," Gil Carbo said. "We struggled to find software that linked with our mission, until we found Socrata."

To find the right open data partner, Gil Carbo first identified the open data sites that accomplished Gavà's dreams.

"We looked at the sites of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Montgomery County, just to name a few," he said. "They were all running on Socrata. So, we began researching Socrata. The Socrata team engaged with us and developed a demonstration portal that enabled Gavà to implement the portal three weeks later. We discovered Socrata improves transparency quickly. We wanted to put our budget and spending data, invoices, and tax information online, making it available to our citizens. Socrata does this."

He saw the turning tide in Europe. Open data is all over the news and transparency is a necessity for the smartest governments. But, the options for open data in Spain are limited.

"Locally, we had just two choices available," he said. "One tool allowed you to open your data. The other helped with financial transparency. No tool in Spain could do both."

He dreamed of being the first Spanish city to follow an Anglo-Saxon transparency model.

"As I read newspapers and magazines geared toward city managers, Socrata's name kept appearing as the industry expert in open data," he said.

Gil Carbo understood the best way to communicate data is through visualizations. He searched for a platform that allowed users to simply create beautiful data visualizations.

"Socrata is the market leader, with an easy-to-use platform that was easy to integrate with our ERP systems," he said. "It was the obvious choice."

Raquel Sanchez, Gavà's mayor, believed in and gave strong political support to develop the new city project. Sanchez wanted Gavà to become an Open Government evangelist, and he did. Since that time, Gil Carbo has moved on to other data ventures, most recently as the chief data officer at Hospital de la Santa Creu I Sant Pau, but the legacy he built at Gavà lives on. He's worked as a BI and Big Data project leader at Generalitat de Catalunya and Chief Information and Data Officer at Grup Sagessa.

At the city, Gil Carbo faced questions from other department leaders, mostly centered on their fears about publishing data and privacy laws.

"Here in Spain, and all throughout Europe, we have a strong focus on privacy when it comes to data. It's a tricky issue," he said. "We had our lawyers help us determine if it was possible to launch Socrata in our city. They helped us figure out what information we could publish. Once we received permission from our lawyers, we moved forward toward our launch."

Gavà moved forward quickly, launching the platform in less than three months. The response is still positive.

"We have heard from public managers, community managers, and data journalists," Sanchez, the mayor, said. "They are astonished by the platform."

Since launching the Socrata open data portal, Gavà has participated in conference to showcase the city's accomplishments in transparency and open data, which have put the city on the map in Spain.

"We are a small village of only 46,000," Sanchez said. "We don't have a lot of power and rarely make news. But, our open data program has made others take notice of what we are doing. That makes us very proud."

Where does Gavà City hope to go from here?

"We will have all the main public data available in the portal," Sanchez explained. "We will begin to develop new digital services, without the cost from the private sector, and we hope to see the volume of requests for public data, via phone or email, decrease."

Sanchez is also excited to use open data to improve the knowledge of management inside the organization, giving each department a view into what others are working on. Most of all, Gavà has become an enthusiastic advocate for open data and Socrata.

"We recommend Socrata to everyone who will listen to us," Gil Carbo said. "I like it because it's very easy to implement, it answered my questions about transparency, and the team is wonderful. The Socrata crew we work with is professional, helpful, and available at all hours. Most of all, I appreciate their focus on results and the way they clearly believe in and enjoy what they do."

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