9. Supporting data users

This step can be implemented as follows

The person promoting data sharing in the organisation together with the communications unit

  • support the use of data by providing user-friendly feedback channels,
  • collect feedback from data users,
  • collaborate with developers, and
  • organise various events where the data published by the organisation is utilised to promote the use of said data, such as hackathons.

Supporting data use

This section describes what kind of user support an organisation can offer to data users and how user satisfaction can be measured.

The aim of the organisation is to generate interest in the data it has shared and promote its use. After all, the mere act of opening data is not always enough to lead to its widespread use. The use of opened data requires that

  • the data’s existence is actively communicated
  • its users are supported in different ways, and
  • its users are solicited for feedback.

When the organisation supports its data users and collects feedback, it helps improve the interaction between them while also providing a likely boost in the data’s use. For example, feedback helps improve the quality and usability of data.

Data users must be able to trust that their wishes will be heard and that the data will be developed in a user-friendly manner. For this reason, organisations should be prepared to respond to feedback or questions from data users. The quality and amount of external feedback may vary, but it is worth engaging with – it could contain extremely valuable ideas.

The organisation should select feedback channels that are best suited for it and its data users, while taking its own resources into account. Whenever possible, open feedback channels can be used in user support, as these allow everyone to see and benefit from the feedback submitted by others. Such channels help create an open data community and promote data use. They also improve efficiency, as there is no need to respond to the same messages and feedback several times. 

Ways of providing user support 


Email is a simple channel for feedback and support. It is important to ensure that responses to feedback are given fast enough and that their quality is adequate. It may be advisable to set up a dedicated email address for the organisation’s open data initiatives, such as opendata@[organisation].com.

The Open Data service allows users to specify an administrator for each opened dataset. It is a good idea to use your organisation’s open data email address as their email address. The administrator is responsible for the content of the dataset and the feedback it receives. Dataset users can send a message to the administrator's e-mail address given in its metadata if, for example, they encounter problems with using it. 

Discussion forums

Many data portals have a forum where users can comment on datasets and discuss other similar topics. The discussion forums are intended as an accessible channel for discussions between data openers and users. All comments are public, meaning that all data users can see each other’s comments and talk about them with each other. This facilitates the work of both the data administrator and the user, as it lessens the need to ask and answer the same questions several times. The data administrator can also report on any changes made to the dataset on the discussion forum.

Open source examples of data usage

One of the most effective ways to support the use of data is to provide an open-source example of data utilisation. You can help your API users save time by providing an open-source example of how the API can be used.

Examples of API use

If you publish your data through an API, it is a good idea to offer data users an example of how the API functions. An example helps the developer to make progress even if the documentation is inadequate. By presenting the features of your APIs to application developers, you will also receive feedback on their functionality that will help you in their development.

Other support channels

If users need a great deal of support, a helpline may also be a useful option. The contact information should be easy to find on the organisation's website, making it easy for users to get in touch if they have problems. Sometimes it may be necessary to set up a Frequently Asked Questions page if you repeatedly receive the same questions. 

Useful measurement methods

Smoke test 

In software testing, a ‘smoke test’ is conducted to find out roughly if the program works to begin with. In the same way, data can be subjected to a review by a developer who is able to determine quickly if something is fundamentally wrong with the dataset to be published. This will help you quickly correct any easy-to-spot errors in your publishing process. It is often a good idea to subject any soon-to-be-opened data to a user smoke test by asking users to experiment with the data in advance.

Measuring user satisfaction

The organisation should regularly measure user satisfaction with its datasets, as the results will allow the organisation to identify any potential development needs. This also provides the organisation with information about how the data it has shared has been used.

For example, user satisfaction can be investigated by publishing a social media survey where potential data users are asked what data they have used, for what purpose, how often, and whether using the data has been straightforward. If the organisation knows the people who use its data, it can also assess their user satisfaction by interviewing them.

Helsinki Region Infoshare’s user satisfaction surveys
Helsinki Region Infoshare has conducted user satisfaction surveys that have included questions about which open data offered on the HRI service the user has used, and in which format they would prefer to access the data. This survey has provided the HRI service with valuable feedback that will be taken into account in further measures. Read more about HRI’s 2021 user satisfaction survey results (in Finnish).

Cooperation with developers

This section describes how an organisation can promote cooperation with its data users and developer community. The aim of cooperation is to facilitate the reuse of the data.

At best, a developer community, network, or ecosystem is created around the utilisation of the data, where different actors can support each other. The organisation should work closely together with developers and be active on their channels. Information about open datasets and the cooperation possibilities associated with them is often communicated through multiple channels, and in some cases information has spread effectively through informal networks and meetings.

Cooperation with the user community may also be necessary, as different data users have different needs and skills. For example, some users may wish to cooperate with those who opened the data, while others may be more inclined to use the data independently. The organisation can promote cooperation by various means, such as organising events for data users or appointing a community coordinator to represent the organisation in its user community. 

Step 1 of the operating model contains descriptions of open-data ecosystems and networks.

Examples of developer cooperation

Different hackathons are an example of events that can be organised to attract interest in the opened data. In addition to hackathons, it is also a good idea to organise lengthier activities that support the utilisation of data, such as developer meetups that focus on topical themes. 

Ultrahack and Junction hackathons

Ultrahack and Junction were organised for the first time in 2016. Both Ultrahack and Junction events have also been held in Finland. Both hackathons have included challenges related to open data several times. The amount of various prizes in Ultrahack totalled EUR 1 million, and more than 20,000 people from 107 countries have participated in Junction.

Read more about Ultrahack.

Read more about Junction.


Hack4OpenGLAM is an open cultural hackathon, a co-creation event that promotes open access to cultural heritage. GLAM stands for the English words Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. The event brings together content producer communities, GLAM professionals, advocates of open cultural heritage, digital media creators and developers of tools and platforms to learn, work and create together. The event was organised for the first time in 2020 as part of the Creative Commons Global Summit. AvoinGLAM, which works together with Open Knowledge Finland, Creative Commons Finland and Wikimedia Finland, also organised an event in 2021. The local creativity-oriented event became a global success.

Read more about Hack4OpenGLAM

Helsinki Region Infoshare’s cooperation with developers

Open data is used by many parties, and not all of them can necessarily be engaged in dialogue and cooperation. Some users get actively involved, however, for example by giving feedback on data and participating in events related to open data. Users can follow communication related to open data in newsletters or on social media channels, among other things.

Open data events can be organised as conventional events with physical presence or virtually on different platforms. The benefits of virtual events may include more extensive opportunities to participate and less cumbersome arrangements, while taking part in discussions may feel more natural at physical events.

For example, HRI organises HRI Loves Developers meetings focusing on datasets relevant to a certain theme (either datasets that have already been opened, or the opening of which is being planned). Read more about HRI’s developer cooperation.  

HRI also offers general instructions for data users and data publishers and instructions for using spatial data (in Finnish).

Datademo funding experiment for developers

In 2014, Helsinki Region Infoshare Service of the cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area created a funding model called Datademo in cooperation with Open Knowledge Finland and Sitra. The report on the Datademo experiment (in Finnish, Google docs) describes the process and its outcomes. The purpose of the experiment was to inspire developers to create new solution models that, using open data, promote democracy in some way. Datademo funded the implementation of the best ideas with a total of EUR 48,000. During the year, funding was granted to a total of 24 different proposals in a transparent process.