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Governing Urban Data for the Public Interest

Author: Bria, F., Blankertz, A., Fernández-Monge, F., Gelhaar, J., Grafenstein, M. v., Haase, A., Kattel, R., Otto, B., Sagarra Pascual, O., & Rackow, L.
Published in:
Year: 2023
Type: Working paper

Cities are laboratories for democratic and sustainable innovation; they wield normative and regulatory power coupled with infrastructural capacity and close connection to citizens. They govern and shape the urban spaces in which citizens meet and interact. This urban space is becoming digital, which creates a new form of infrastructure: urban data understood as data collected in the public space or generated in the context of city procurement or financing. Urban data is essential to understanding and shaping how citizens can make use of the public space and how governments can make decisions and act in the public interest: Which needs are currently unmet by public transport? What do we need for a more effective mobility transformation? Where do we need more spaces for local communities and vulnerable groups? How can we provide better and more innovative public services? Cities have only begun to tap into the potential of urban data. Although they make some of the data they collect available as open data to the public, most urban data is controlled by private companies that operate in the urban space and are reluctant to share this data. Yet, if urban data is understood as a common, cities should be able to access it to ensure it is put to the service of creating public value. This situation demands developing and using a set of legal tools, organisational capabilities and digital public infrastructures that will enable cities to ensure that urban data benefits not only a few but society at large. This also requires capacity, policies, and skills to create and benefit from such public value. In this report, we set out to combine insights from many years of data sharing experience with the specific insights gained from an experiment on urban data sharing in the City of Hamburg. On this basis, we have developed a range of recommendations. They are intended to enable cities and communities to access and use urban data to gain better democratic control of urban space and provide more effective public services.

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