Open data has been a good idea for municipalities. It exhumes valuable information from file drawers and databases and puts it to work for the benefit of the public and the pocketbook. And it improves the transparency and openness of government. But even so, why would San Francisco, Amsterdam and Barcelona decide to cooperatively share open data on mobile devices, in an initiative just announced?

One reason is sustainability. A few years ago, the CIOs of seven U.S. cities --- Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and Philadelphia – joined into an informal group they called the G7 to figure out how to share open data ideas, formats and apps. Their reasoning was that by cooperating on data formats, and sharing applications, they could help attract investor support and thus improve sustainability.

In addition, cities all have many similar challenges. According to a release by Cityzenith, the collaboration platform provider working with Amsterdam's Economic Board, the Barcelona City Council and the San Francisco Department of the Environment, cooperation will help smart cities share best practices and “transform the collection, visualization, analysis, and management of municipal data around the globe." The three cities will also work to develop applications enabling cities, their corporate partners and citizens to analyze and create new uses for urban data on mobile devices.

"In Amsterdam we have been working very intensively on open data for the last few years,” said Ger Baron, IT program and cluster manager at Amsterdam’s Economic Board, in a release. “Now it is time for the next step, a step that we want to take with a couple of the leading cities in the world and our ambition is to help set a standard for smart city collaboration.”

According to Cityzenith CEO Michael Jansen, the company expects to add additional international partner cities to the platform in the coming months.