Abilities Needed for Evaluation and Use of Open Data Sources in Urban Planning Processes

Cities are pioneers in opening data. Moreover, the phenomena of smart cities, open cities, and open government are strongly based on open data. Finnish open data includes information relating to households, energy use, transport, and infrastructure (Avoindata.fi, 2022). In addition, many research institutes provide open information and data that relate to our urban living environments.

Large open data sets have changed the way cities are investigated (Ruoxi, Xinyuan & Nan, 2022) and designed (Ying & Lun, 2016). Therefore, openness of information and data has an impact on the information sources used by those involved in planning processes. The information sources are utilized in a very multi-professional information-intensive work. Consequently, new capabilities are needed in evaluating this kind of information sources. According to the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Association of College and Research Libraries, 2015) the abilities of an information literate individual include detection and evaluation of issues relating to access to information and information sources.

Methods and Data Collection
We based this study on the theme interviews and a small-scale survey we carried out in a large multidisciplinary research project. In Spring 2022 we conducted fifteen interviews among Finnish city employees involved in urban planning processes. We used the Microsoft Teams videoconferencing platform and transcribed the interviews verbatim. We focused on multi-professionality of the urban planning process. Furthermore, we examined information practices and use of information sources relating to the urban planning process. We followed an inductive approach to investigate the role and value of openness of information and data, as well as abilities needed. We will further untangle the practices through a small-scale questionnaire survey targeting the interviewees.

Preliminary Results and Discussion
According to preliminary results of the interview data, we emphasized the openness of data and the important role of different kinds of openly reported surveys and statistics. On the other hand, we found it difficult to evaluate and use the large amount of information and data in the decision-making processes of urban planning. The information literacy related abilities and information practices of participants of urban planning processes have not received a lot of attention in literature, except for some rare exceptions (e.g., Serola, 2006) and this study partly fills in the research gap.


  • Association of College and Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved from https://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/issues/infolit/framework1.pdf
  • Avoindata.fi. (2023). All Finnish open data from one place. Retrieved from https://www.avoindata.fi/en
  • Ruoxi, W., Xinyuan, Z., & Nan, L. (2022). Zooming into mobility to understand cities: A review of mobility-driven urban studies. Cities, 130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2022.103939
  • Serola, S. (2006). City planners’ information seeking behavior: Information channels used and information types needed in varying types of perceived work tasks. In Proceedings of the 1st international conference on Information interaction in context (IIiX) (pp. 42–45). New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. https://doi.org/10.1145/1164820.1164831
  • Ying, L., & Lun, L. (2016). Transformations of urban studies and planning in the big/open data era: A review. International Journal of Image and Data Fusion, 7(4), 295–308. https://doi.org/10.1080/19479832.2016.1215355

Heidi Enwald1, Anna Suorsa1, Anna-Maija Multas1, Anelma Lammi2
1Information Studies, University of Oulu, Finland; 2Finnish Lung Health Association (FILHA), Helsinki, Finland

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