Open Knowledge Sweden releases Contact Details to Swedish Public Bodies as Open Data in Bulk!

Yesterday Aylin shared a text about the upcoming yearly returning hackathon in Sweden run by Swedish authorities called “Hack For Sweden”, this year taking place in March 2016.

Although more and more data is being made available, the development as you can see in our Local Open Data Index is quite slow. We also found what we consider to be an important data set to be missing that is not provided by the Swedish government. This is the raw data on how to contact them with a typical open data feature – everything in bulk. So, as an ordinary user of the Free Software Office-suite LibreOffice and it’s spreadsheet software called LibreOffice Calc, I made a little hack. This is how I did it:

  1. Firstly – the original need came from my work with the FrågaStaten-project, I searched around the Internet for contact details to all public bodies. I wanted to see if it was all available at one place in raw data.
  2. This led me to the quite nice site Myndigheterna.se, built by Jonas Lejon. This was the nicest User Experience (UX) in this data jungle in search for contact data so far. It had the details of all state authorities. Problem was that it did not have raw data in bulk format. Nor the municipalities nor counties.
  3. I found SCB’s website “Myndighetsregistret” (The Public Authority register), only with state owned public bodies).
  4. Seeing that the website seemed to have the data I looked around for the option to download all data in bulk.
  5. So I made a Freedom of Information Access request but got the answer that it was only possible to download them in bulk, divided up by authority category.
  6. Back on the website I got all the data – in 5 separate CSV’s files (imagine 5 different spreadsheets with different formating and categories)! Lots of work to dig into!
  7. I also found SKL (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting) and their site with contact details to municipalities (kommuner), landsting and regioner (counties & regions).
  8. The site only allowed me to download each contact data separately. Not a pleasant experience.
  9. Since SKL does not act under Offentlighetsprincipen (Principle of Public Access) I e-mailed them and thus could get it all out in two separate .csv files. However I tried to make as much of the communication public as possible at the FrågaStaten-mailing list.
  10. I managed to pull all the data together and Augusto Herrmann from Brazil made an awesome job with Python to sort and generate URLs for each Swedish public body.

This whole process felt like quite a difficult and unsatisfactory experience. It was a realization and insight about the quality of meeting the user’s (i.e. citizen’s) need in the digital information age.

The first iteration of data (not including Swedish embassies yet) is available at the GitHub repository and will later be published at Open Knowledge’s international project PublicBodies.org! The PublicBodies project is a website where you can find open data of contact details to other countries public bodies as well.

I talked to Nils Funcke, expert on Freedom of Press and Freedom of Information in Sweden last Friday. He said that the sheer simplicity of having only one file with all contact details in open data to public bodies is a great step forward for people who need to get in touch with authorities.

Please get in touch with us if you are using this data, we would love to share your story of how you made this come to use. Let us know if you are attending Hack For Sweden and thinking about making your hackathon project open source. We would really like to support you and help your project get a larger reach through our community!

Let us hope that Hack For Sweden is a start of more collaboration between authorities for better serving of citizen’s needs!

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