Data economy in the smart city landscape - III

By measuring power levels in cell phones connections it is possibile to localise the phone and derive further information getting the pulse of the city of Rome. Credit: Senseable Cities MIT

Let's pretend, as consequence of what I stated in the previous posts, that cities will have an Open Data Framework where data generated by a variety of sources (owned by different parties) will become accessible (under some conditions) to everybody so that value can be mined and offered to the market.

This is the case of Trento, where the Municipality, and Province, has since 2013 opened up the access to some 100s data bases. Whilst many of these data are very specific to an area (like the distribution of orchards and strawberry fields), some are of interest to a variety of areas like traffic flows (that have been monitored for city planners but that can also be of interest to commerce).

The trick is to leverage on these data and this, in my opinion, requires:

  • monitoring of the usage to grant ownership rights;
  • carefully preserve privacy;
  • stimulate third parties to use the data;
  • create awareness among the citizens.

The free lunch approach may not work. A Municipality can, and usually will, provide its data free of charge for third party use, and so will probably do many citizens. However, most industries may be reluctant to offer their data for free. More importantly, there are many meta-data that could be generated by intermediate parties that would greatly increase the overall value and make other third parties applications easier to create. These intermediate parties consider the production of these meta data as their business and will do so only if revenues are possibile. 
Hence the relevance to ensure an ownership protection that can sustain revenues.

Notice that we can envisage a situation where a Municipality uses its data as seeds to start a process of data sharing, and may also force (as it is the case in Trento up to a certain extent) industries to share their data (in case of Trento industries that are offering services to the Municipality, like public transportation). This same Municipality may foster a data sharing culture through its citizenship (crowdsourcing) and this would further increase the availability and variety of shared data.

However, I am convinced that providing ways to protect the ownership is the best way to stimulate the leverage of data and it is actually the way to move from a bit economy into a data economy.  More on the coming post.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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