Urenio Watch Watch: Cities

New report on Citizen-led data governance

The rise of the online economy is based on the opportunities to extract value from data that is produced by digital technologies. As opposed to data brokers that gain value buying and selling personal information, this report argues for radically new ideas about how the value of our personal information can be returned back to citizens. Rather than focusing on how making money from data, it focuses on how data can benefit society as a whole, exploring the idea of ‘data commons’. The report is entitled “Common Knowledge: Citizen-led data governance for better cities” and is part of the decode H2020 project.

What type of value is extracted from our personal data is one of the defining questions for the future of digital economy. Today, too much data is either misused ‘“ hacked, exploited or used improperly ‘“ or under-used ‘“ restricted to very narrow financial conception of value. However, data becomes more and more intimate and   our ability to respond to these problems will become even more important.

The DECODE project takes the concept of the commons and applies it to data, as a useful way of addressing these problems. Much of the practical application of DECODE’ s technology to date has focused on moving the idea of a data commons from theory to practice. The current report is a summary of that work.

Data commons – what and why?

Commons provide a useful set of principles to support privacy-enhanced sharing of data for public value, with the aim of reconciling both personal and collective control, while maintaining transparent, accountable and participatory governance over data.

Commons come in many different shapes and sizes. Each will need careful design depending on the type of data and sector. We provide a range of examples which aim to show the different types of data commons that are emerging, from larger-scale sharing of research data, to more community-oriented forms of sharing (e.g. based upon citizen sensing). DECODE’ s pilots show how different types of data commons involving personal data can be supported, with the help of novel technologies and methods for community governance.

The project tested commons-based approaches through the use of tools for decentralised identity and trusted data sharing among local communities. This report shares lessons learned during the DECODE pilots. Sharing insights from each one, it provides an outline of their impacts and implications, and share an overview of how policymakers can continue to support the momentum built by the project in enabling common-based approaches to data governance in cities.

Policy Recommendations

The final section brings together insights from the analysis, and DECODE pilots, to make a series of practical recommendations for governments at multiple levels to experiment with, support and implement a commons-based approach for data governance. There are three levels for policy recommendations: the city, national and European levels.

Data Commons Manifesto

In the appendix of the report, readers can find the Data Commons Manifesto. This manifesto was created by dozens of people collaboratively using DECODE technology on the Decidim platform, as an activity and outcome of the Digital Democracy and Data Commons (DDDC) pilot in Barcelona.

It was promoted by Tecnopolitica.net and Dimmons.net, research groups at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute of the Open University of Catalonia and shared at events in Barcelona between 2018 and 2019, and is still open for contributions and signing at the time of writing.