Berlin Open Data strategy

Berlin, Germany

In 2011, the City of Berlin engaged in the development of an Open Data platform to foster transparency in public administration and the production of smart city apps.

The Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises is responsible for the Open Data strategy adopted by the City of Berlin. It regularly organizes events, such as hackathons and Open Data days, to promote the potential of Open Data, connect stakeholders and foster innovation. Public administrations, universities, and the private sector are the primary stakeholders involved in the consultation, generation and dissemination of Open Data.

Developing a vibrant Open Data culture among city administrators and app developers, requires political will, regular communication with the community and practical instruments. Conceived as a decentralized tool to which all city administrators can contribute, the Berlin Open Data Portal was launched in 2011 and now has more than 1200 data sets online. The portal has supported the development of many data-based apps, such as, internet speed and the location of bathing places in the city. Efforts are being made to upscale the use of the Open Data Portal in the city administration and improve the accuracy of available (real-time) data. The development of an Open Data platform supports the emergence of a data-driven administration and contributes to open government and good governance.

Background and objectives

Open Data refers to data that is made freely available to the public without any restrictions for further use or dissemination. Personal data and other sensitive data (e.g. security or confidential data) are excluded from Open Data.

A city has many reasons to develop an Open Data platform: it encourages citizen participation and ensures the city administration is more transparent. It contributes to improving the exchange of information within government and encourages good governance and public debate. Open Data fosters the emergence of new business sectors and associated applications.

The potential for running an Open Data platform in the City of Berlin was revealed in a preliminary study carried out by the Fraunhofer-Institute FOKUS in 2010. The institute presented three core recommendations:

Subsequently, the City administration commenced an online-voting system to define interesting data types and categories. Generally, data is relevant if easily accessible, machine-readable, non-discriminatory, complete and available in real-time.


In 2011, the project “Open Data Berlin” was launched and Open Government became part of the city government’s political guidelines. It included the definition of a legal framework as well as analyses, concepts, and an action plan. Simultaneously, an Open Data pilot portal was launched.

In the same year, the first “Berlin Open Data Day” (BODDy) was organized as a meeting between the city administration and the Open Data community. Initiated by the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, the aim of the meeting was to encourage the administration to publish data and to convince the Open Data community to use the published data.

The Berlin Open Data strategy was published in 2012. During that year, the Open Data Portal was further expanded to include approximately 100 data sets online.

Germany’s portal was launched in 2013. Shortly after, the City of Berlin relaunched its own portal with about 250 data sets, including geo-data and new services. The city also strengthened the exchange of experiences with other countries.

In 2014 – 2015 - additional Berlin Open Data Days were organized and the city also supported the “Hackdays” (Coding da Vinci, Energy Hack).

In 2016, the E-Government law was legislated. At this time the open-data portal comprised more than 1200 data sets, 50 applications and 22 categories, e.g. labor market, demography, tourism, health, etc. Decentralized data provision ensures more up-to-date information and less effort for data supervisors. Data providers include District Offices, Senate Administrations, Statistical Office, Berlin Partner for Business and Technology GmbH, Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS, VBB Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH, Robert Koch Institute, and Stromnetz Berlin GmbH.

The Open Data « ecosystem » includes many stakeholders who contribute their expertise to the strategy:

Financing and resources

The development of the Open Data Portal is entirely financed by the Senate Departement for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises in Berlin.

Results and impacts

The combination of high-quality data, a successful public-relations campaign and community commitment have facilitated many “success stories” of startups and other developers. Successful app services include:

Barriers and challenges

Lessons learned and transferability

The Open Data landscape is diverse, with start-ups, hobbyists and public administrators representing different interests and working cultures. Regular communication helps them to better know each other and to understand their respective needs and limits. In Berlin, events like hackathons, meetups and regular development meetings in the « OK Labs » of the Open Knowledge Foundation contribute to strengthen the local network of stakeholders.

Successful community projects such as the OpenStreetMap or the WikiData project developed by Wikimedia in Berlin demonstrate that Open Data does not necessarily have to originate from public sources. On the contrary, « Citizen Science » exemplifies how data collection by citizens can make a valuable contribution to scientific research. In regards to the importance of data protection, voluntary sharing of information is also an important aspect for building a comprehensive Open Data culture.

While public institutions can sometimes lack the foresight to maximize innovations derived from their own data, Open Data inspires many entrepreneurs to develop new applications. Targeted start-up support from the city government can trigger the development of a creative idea beyond its initial stages. Public administration also benefits from an open data culture where a data-driven administration is characterized by an enhanced exchange of information, a more efficient allocation of resources and evidence-based decision making processes.


Berlin Open Data strategy, Berlin, Policy Transfer Platform, mars 2018

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« Citizen Science »

Berlin Website

Open Data Berlin

Fraunhofer FOKUS im Auftrag der Senatsverwaltung für Wirtschaft, Technologie und Forschung in Berlin, Dr. Wolfgang Both (Hrsg.) Prof. Dr. Ina Schieferdecker (Hrsg.) Kurzfassung der Studie Berliner Open Data-Strategie, Berlin, Januar 2012

Open Data in der Praxis, Bereitsteller und Anwender offener Daten in Berlin, Benjamin Seibel, Januar 2016,