It started with a friend’s interesting project. https://gotelonica.wordpress.com sets forth to draw comparisons between two European cities. “Everyday stories, vivid images, mutual interests and hopeful efforts”… will have to be good enough though because finding decent comparative data is pretty complicated!
If you search the internet for “city comparison” or anything like that, you are most likely to find a US site comparing US cities. Mobility in the United States is a fact of life. And great websites cater to all sorts of ways to discover if your new job offer is as good as it sounds. Or if you should buy a house there or anything else you are interested in discovering. Similar efforts within Europe are almost non existent. UN Habitat data doesn’t include Sweden’s second largest city. Interesting online articles with catchy titles such as “these are the world’s dirtiest/most dangerous/best cities” rarely include both Thessaloniki and Goteborg.
In fact an American website offered the best weather and crime comparison. Thessaloniki has a lower crime index and higher safety index. Which doesn’t say much unless they analyse exactly how they get, process and quantify the data. Being Greek I know for a fact that the stats coming out of that particular civil service are far from perfect.
You may eventually find some meaningful ways to compare the cities, if you try hard enough. Gotelonica is an excellent idea because statistics are almost meaningless on their own in such a complex environment. European cities cannot be set side by side like American ones. We have no real federal or state system in place. The European Union is meant to help us work in different places but in fact there is not that much mobility. And the lack of data is a pretty convincing evidence of this.
We are decades behind America and it shows. Much like my objections to Greek Police statistics above, almost any matter (other than the weather) concerning European cities is bound to become political. Different measurements, different resources allocated to statistics, different infrastructures which make the numbers rather drab tools to paint a true picture. It makes it even harder to build any sort of technological platforms or apps. So we just sit around while Google and Facebook speed along by getting users to volunteer information, live with their tools and then use machine learning to offer better judgements than any European tool ever could. Google traffic data is the best pan European resource for how fast you will get from A to B. While we argue about how and why our GPS alternative never got off the ground, Maps just keeps getting better.
So next time you start talking about European tech entrepreneurs, take a moment to consider how hard it is to get decent databases to work with. Or to attract other Europeans to your city to work for you. Or even to calculate ahead of time the chances of either of these two happening.