At the Next Generation Internet Policy Summit 2020, organized by Nesta and the City of Amsterdam on 28th September 2020, Daniel Sarasa (Zaragoza) and Malcolm Bain (Barcelona), on behalf of the Coalition of Cities for Digital Rights, hosted a round table for city and regional stakeholders that explored the application of digital rights in local data-sharing platforms, throughout the stages planning, implementation, and evolution of digital data sharing services. Find out what was discussed below and learn more about eight study-cases that were discussed. This is the current result of the Coalition's working group on Data Sharing, a work in progress involving more than 12 cities from around the world.
Data sharing platforms are playing an important role in cities by integrating data collected throughout or related to the city and its citizens from a wide variety of sources (central administration, associated entities, utilities, private sector...) with the aim of enabling local authorities, businesses and even occasionally the public to access this data produced within the city and use it for limited or unlimited purposes (open data).
Malcolm introduced the session, highlighting that while cities are keen to share data and use shared data in digital services, they are (or should be) also aware of the digital rights issues arising in these projects related to citizens' privacy, transparency and openness of the data used, accessibility and inclusion of citizens as well as the existence of bias in the data set used and the privatization of the use of city-related data. Luckily, cities are also in the best position to introduce the concept of “digital rights by design” in these projects, and correct issues such as bias, privacy intrusions, fairness, profiling and data misuse. He briefly show-cased the Coalition work in this area in the Data Sharing Working Group, focusing on the “building blocks” for rights-compliant data sharing projects to extract value from urban big data while respecting residents and visitors’ rights, including policies, processes, infrastructures, and specific actions and technologies.
Daniel highlighted the work of Eurocities on their Citizens Data Principles, which aim is to offer guidance to European local governments on more socially responsible use of data, and recognise, protect and uphold the citizens’ rights on the data they produce. The principles support how to use data-generated knowledge to improve urban life and preserve European values through scientific, civic, economic and democratic progress. Daniel presented one of his own city’s data-sharing project, “Periscopio”, an experimental framework (linked to a physical facility such as the Open Urban Lab) for sharing information contained in urban data (public and private) in such a way that it allows social agents and citizens to be involved in order to create social, scientific, economic and democratic value, as well as enabling the creation of better urban services.
Then, representatives of the cities of San Antonio, Long Beach, Portland, Toronto, Rennes, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Barcelona each presented some case studies from their cities, highlighting different issues raised by their data-sharing platforms and projects.
- For the City of San Antonio, USA, Emily B. Royall presented how San Antonio has taken steps to address data bias in survey design and administration through community engagement methods under the theme "Leveraging Data for Equity".
- Johanna Pasilkar of Helsinki shared with us the work of “MyData" operator initiative and how to ease the daily life of the residents by consolidating data collected by the city’s departments and organisations and enabling sharing across several municipalities (data portability).
- On behalf of the City of Amsterdam, Ron Van der Lans told us about the collaboration with the city by sharing traffic data with navigation companies such as Google, Waze and BeMobile with the aim of improving the mobility and quality of life of citizens.
- Hamish Goodwin from the City of Toronto, Canada explained how through the Free Wi-Fi Pilot Project they are attempting to integrate digital rights principles into the city digital infrastructure and the municipalities' decision-making and how to put a policy framework into practice - the results of this are just coming out.
- From the city of Rennes, Ben Lister introduced us to the RUDI - Rennes Urban Data, a local, multipartner, data sharing platform which goes beyond open data and connects users and producers to create new or/and better services.
- Héctor Domínguez from the city of Portland, USA told us about the importance of “Racial Justice” as a core value to regulating emergent technology, based on the respect for privacy, trusted surveillance and digital inclusion.
- Ryan Kurtzman on behalf of the City of Long Beach, USA spoke about the Justice Lab, resident’s positive and negative associations of smart cities, and how participatory design of digital services is necessary to tap into the positive aspects: personal convenience, engagement and solving social challenges.
- To conclude the round, Marc Pérez-Batlle from Barcelona presented several data sharing and open data projects led by the City Council.
The City participants highlighted the need for embedding digital rights at design time (privacy, transparency, security, accessibility, etc.), citizen participation, and having the flexibility to adapt and correct any issues that may arise – something that may be more difficult when the technologies are embedded in the city infrastructure, and thus all the more important for correct design. Common themes among the projects include the importance of citizen involvement in projects, the respect for privacy and security, and the need for transparency and avoiding data bias. In addition, listeners to the session in the online chat also raised the issue of data “ownership”, and if this is a useful concept or rather misleading – cities are more stewards of data for the public, rather than owner of data that they gather and use.
It should also be remarked that in the course of the virtual round table a very participative public which was present through the enabled chat showed great interest in the topics dealt with by the City participants. Sten-Erik Björling's interesting intervention is worth highlighting in particular, indicating his view that "in the context of the circular economy and sustainable development it will be important to empower citizens as sources of data both in consumption/recycling processes and in behavioural change processes... This will introduce the challenge of transforming the citizen from "sensor" to actor - how to motivate [citizens] to provide reliable information as they themselves get some benefits from their data and information".
The session concluded stating that much work was still to be done, but just by raising cities’ awareness of digital rights issues in data-sharing projects, we are making a big first step. The Coalition will shortly be releasing the Data Sharing Concept Note, and associated case studies that were briefly presented during the round table.
Attached you will find the Round Table presentation and six of the Data Sharing case studies presented by the participants in the CCDR Data Sharing Working Group- Thank you to all!
Beatriz Benítez and Malcolm Bain