Smart cities and big data: Boundless opportunities?

8 Dec 2016 12:30h - 14:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 11th Internet Governance Forum]

The session co-organised by Ms Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion, Privacy International, and Ms Amalia Toledo, Project Coordinator, Fundación Karisma, examined the impact of Big Data collection, needed for Smart Cities (optimal, efficient, safe and sustainable urban environments formed by interconnecting systems) on human rights, privacy, security, accountability and education.

Pirlot de Corbion started the session by acknowledging that the topic was proposed by an organisation in Columbia that promotes privacy across the World. She continued by defining Smart Cities as “the use of technology data for the improvement of the functionality and functioning of a city”. She also defined Big Data as “the application of analytical techniques to search, aggregate and cross reference data sets to develop intelligent insights.” She added that Smart Cities is an emerging topic in many countries involving different stakeholders.

Mr Amber Sinha, Centre for Internet Society (CIS) – India, talked about the assumptions around Smart Cities. He cited the Smart Cities Mission of India which discussed the following initiatives: smart parking, intelligent transport systems, waste management, telecare, citizen safety, smart grids and meters. He added that all this technology is based on data and it is assumed to be neutral, which has never been the case. He concluded that an examination of a local context is essential and not just a general technical solution.

Ms Jamila Venturini, FGV Brazil, said that different areas in Brazil have different stages of development, information and digitalisation policies, and that much needs to be done in the areas of access and digitalisation policy. There is no unified data protection law.  She added that Brazil needs smart policies to meet up with some smart initiatives, like the installation of Unified Control Centres in cities that hosted the World Cup. She concluded that different stake holders should participate in equal terms on the debate and there should be public- private sector partnership on the issue.

Pirlot de Corbion asked for the name of the private actors involved in the smart initiative, and she responded that the International Business Machine (IBM) is a partner on ways of traffic exchange.

Ms Gemma Galdon Clavell, Eticas Research and Consulting & Universitat de Barcelona, Spain, said she worked on cities and technologies for eight years, and noticed that cities buy technology because it exists and not because they want to solve problems. She added that she worked with cities to improve that thinking, so that data be used according to the priorities of citizens and cities. In Barcelona, the challenge is to invent technology for the citizen. She concluded that we need smart cities that work for citizens.

Mr Max Asange, Google, said ‘Google does not eat your data’. He continued that they use our data to develop projects that serve us, the users and attract more users, and the IGF is the best place to identify issues and work together. He stated that Smart Cities and the Internet of things(IoT) can change lives and help in areas like energy and water, but it is perceived negatively. He also mentioned the use of data to make better decisions, and the Google mobility project aimed at using traffic data to optimise traffic flow. He concluded by challenging Sinha who suggested that more local solutions are needed. He said in this age of Internet and globalisation, any solution can be used anywhere.

Mr Niels Ten Oever, IETF, said that Smart Cities and IoT devices have restrictions in energy, size, memory, bandwidth and cost and this leaves the primitive computers with limited security. He cautioned that we should approach them with care because they have hidden security threats. The impact on infrastructure and human rights should be considered.

Mr Guilherme CANELA DE SOUSA, UNESCO office for the MERCOSUR, stated that the main problem is that we do not have policies for our good projects. He continued that we need public policies as well as to considerprivacy and ethical issues.

The session ended with a few questions from the audience. 

by Foncham Denis Doh, Internet Society Cameroon