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Maarten Marx of the Informatics Institute and Jaap Kamps of the Faculty of Humanities have received a grant of ca. € 500.000 for the project ‘ACCESS: Access to City Councils using Exploratory Search Systems’.

Open City Data has the power to connect the present, the past and the future, however much of the primary sources remain “hidden in the archives” because they are not linked to existing generic data. There are three principal barriers to realize this potential: first, most data is unstructured text and at a scale defying manual annotation; second, available structured data is encoded in ways preventing effective exploration; third, we miss a unifying perspective that can function as a framework to connect the wide variety of sources.

Minutes of the city council

The ACCESS project addresses these problems head-on. First, we focus on minutes of the city council as unifying perspective over time. Anything that happens in the city, anything of great importance, is discussed in the city council. Second, technically we build on extensive earlier work on the parliamentary proceedings, and apply tools to extract the debate structure of the discussions in the city council. In addition, we add metadata to the minutes using semantic annotation tools that encode and normalize various entities (e.g., locations and their GPS boundaries). Via these normalized entities we connect the minutes of the city council to other sources as maps, (localized) demographic data, news archives, Wikipedia. Third, we develop a range of innovative access tools based on graph search technology.

The minutes of the city council form a central hub connecting the city’s past, present, and future. Our created ACCESS tools allow citizens to effectively explore any complex topic of government accountability and participatory government.

Public and private partners

The funding by NWO is part of the Smart Culture: Creative Cities, Creative Industries program. The grant will be used to appoint two PhD students. The project consortium consists of private partners Spinque, NotuBiz, Open State Foundation, GridLine, Stamkracht, and public partners Stadsarchief Amsterdam, KNAW/Huygens-ING, National Library of the Netherlands (KB) and UvA.