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How Open Data has been gaining momentum in Japan

Sadly, many people started to pay attention to Open Data after earthquake tragedy in 2011. The government realized local governments' Open Data was not searchable enough, also data format and words(terms) used in the data wasn't properly organized and there's no data standardization. This makes it difficult to unify data across the organizations.

Cabinet office took initiative to organize all these challenges and the situation is getting better now. 

Local governments' Open Data

As of January 2017, about 260 cities(and towns) are engaged in publicizing Open Data, and population coverage of this activity is said to be 40% of all Japan's population. But it's also said that in total, Japan has 1,800 cities(and towns and villages) and only 14% of local governments and towns are engaged in it. Many major cities in Japan are involved in this movement and Sabae City is considered to be an advanced example in Open Data scene.

Case study: Sabae City

Sabae city is located in mid-north in Japan and consists of 69,000 population. 

Originally, Sabae City has been working on city operation in collaboration with local residents to be the role model of the future local city in Japan. Mayor is passionate about collaboration with residents in many ways.

When Open Data movement was gaining momentum globally, local IT companies were trying to encourage the mayor to utilize the latest IT strategy for city operation, including Open Data. Mayor responds these suggestions quickly and collaboration with local IT companies started.

City have been publicizing 40 kinds of data such as; 

  • Public toilet locations
  • AED locations
  • Road construction data

Local IT company then have developed around 80 free apps utilizing Open Data such as real-time public transportation data etc. This smooth collaboration with city and IT company have got a lot of media coverage and becoming the example of how you deal with Open Data.

bus app












Japan is facing population decrease and that leads to the situation where not all public services will not be provided by local government. Many local governments feel the need of innovation and more efficient city operation by utilizing IT.

Sabae City's case is considered to be advanced, but the reality is that not many local residents recognize the variety of apps that were developed, and end up not being used. But Sabae City takes this situation as a very first step for the change.

Good news is that many other cities are following the path that Sabae City has created and many lessons and learned has been shared in the Open Data community. Hearing several cases of civic tech activities and surroundings, local Open Data scene is at the very first phase of "Kaizen", we think.

Kentaro Inoueの写真

The author of this post: Kentaro Inoue

Author : Kentaro Inoue

ANNAI Inc Nagaoka branch Manager who is in charge of site building. My favorite module is Rules and Flags!