Data governance in ‘smart’ cities: from open data to my data

13 Nov 2018 09:00h - 10:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]

Smart cities are a reality in many places around the world. The data collected and processed assumes an increase of efficiency for everyday life, however it raises questions around privacy, cybersecurity, and overall data governance.

The workshop was moderated by Mr Luca Belli, Professor, Center for Technology & Society at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School.

Mr Nicholas Bramble, Public Policy Manager, Google, said that based on their research, he noted that there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to understanding how to build more energy-efficient housing, providing transport solutions, and how to better capture emissions. He mentioned examples from around the world when it comes to progressing smart city thinking and solutions. India has committed to building a hundred smart cities, and at the end of 2017, the Indonesian government quadrupled its smart cities programme and launched apps which enable citizens to report conditions, or respond to concerns. Barcelona has a city operating system that provides the city’s internal data, managed by the chief data officer of the city. Bramble concluded by saying that this is, ‘An interesting example of how you can make data publicly available without making it exclusive, and make sure anybody who wants to use this information to build within the city has the ability to do so.’

Ms Jhessica Reia, Researcher and Project Manager at the Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School (FGV), spoke about the, ‘Data controlling resilient smart cities’ research, which looked into data governance and good practice. She noted that it is necessary to share agendas and co-operate more when it comes to smart cities and privacy concerns. It is also important to co-operate with urban policy agenda and discuss the challenges that smart cities might face over the coming years.

In many places around the world, smart cities are already a reality. With smart city solutions come challenges such as privacy, cybersecurity, and data governance issues. There is an evident lack of civil society engagement in forums that gather around smart cities. Reia concluded by saying that there is a real need for, ‘Advocacy and serious research behind the hype of smart cities, in order to make sure that smart city initiatives are not used as mechanisms to reproduce exclusion and discrimination.’

Ms Olga Cavalli, Co-founder, South School on Internet Governance, said that Latin America is an unequal region in terms of the distribution of infrastructure and the distribution of wealth. ‘Connectivity gaps in Latin American cities are present all the time,’ she said. At the moment, the city of Buenos Aires is using big data information for making decisions about different activities in the city, such as the measurement of quality standards, privacy regulations, to analyse data for cleaning the city, and for organ donations. As a good practice example, Santiago was cited as a smart cities of the Latin American region. Projects in Santiago include a smart grid which manages energy distribution, and electromobility within the city. There are special training sessions put in place for both the mayor of Santiago and other city mayors in Chile, to help them understand the value of technology in cities.

Mr Antti Poikola, Researcher, MyData, spoke against the ownership of data in the context of cities. In the digital world, existing laws need to protect personal data and give individuals their privacy and other rights and liberties at any moment. He said that the big data giants do not care about privacy and data protection, but are, ‘Very good at using data.’ He noted that when it comes to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), many people believe that its strict regime will kill innovation in Europe. The MyData project is about enabling the utility of data through individual control. While in general better governance of data is seen as benefiting data use, a particular problem is that it can lead to clear ownership of that data. Data and knowledge are not rivals, but said Poikola, ‘Ownership is a paradigm that explicitly says that it’s exclusive.’ He concluded that ownership is not the way to start the discussion around smart cities because it puts up barriers from the start. The real question is: Who should have the right to learn about the data when we move to AI thinking?

Belli noted that the discussion about smart cities usually assumes an increase in efficiency that is driven by the collection and processing of data. Some analysis within Brazil shows that, especially in Rio and Sao Paolo, many things branded as being part of smart cities usually encompass the collection and use of data. In Brazil, smart city services were implemented out of need, due to events such as the visit of Pope John Paul II, the FIFA World Cup, and the Olympic Games. What the city of Rio, ‘had in mind’ was efficiency, and not data protection or data control. He concluded by agreeing with the MyData philosophy of, ‘Not being the owner but being the one that controls data.’


By Aida Mahmutović