Local government ‘key audience’ for European data sharing initiative

European consortium will engage with local government ‘everywhere’ as part of open data project to give individuals greater control of their online data.

Local government is a key target audience for citizen data management tool Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A pan-European project that aims to create freely-available technology to afford individuals better control over who sees and shares their online data could also ‘unlock insights’ for local government.

The project is made up of 14-strong consortium from Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK, including Barcelona and Amsterdam city councils.

Decentralised Citizen Owned Data Ecosystem (DECODE) is likely to be a smartphone app that contains data generated by individuals. They then set the rules on how their data can be shared within the app, for example, ‘I’d like to share all my data but not for any commercial purpose’ or ‘I’m happy to share all of my data but I want to do so anonymously.’

“We see local government as being a key target audience,” said Tom Symons, principalrResearcher at Nesta, which is leading the project in the UK. “The real benefit for government when you have open data commons is the kind of insights that it might unlock. If you get that at scale, it’s a source of intelligence for councils about things going wrong at city level.”


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Bringing government data to life

Open data shared via the DECODE platform could include, for example, air quality data from home kits, geotagged ‘sentiment’ data (for example, ‘I was here and I did not feel safe’), data generated by Internet of Things devices, such as smart meters or data about votes cast in participatory budgeting.

“The technology will be free and open source,” said Symons. “Everyone in the world can take advantage. We’ll engage with local government audiences everywhere as we go.” He also said that the sharing of data in this way could lead to new products and services which could be to the advantage of councils.

Four public pilots to create and test the tool will soon get underway in Barcelona and Amsterdam focusing on three strands – open democracy, the Internet of Things and the sharing economy – using blockchain-based technology.

“Blockchain will create a record of people’s preferences about what they’d like to happen to their data,” said Symons. “It’s a way of protecting identity, while enabling the sharing of information via a common portal”.

In the UK, Nesta will work with University College London (UCL), Internet of Things data interoperability services provider Thingful and software designers ThoughtWorks.

Other project members are the Institut Municipal d’Informatica de Barcelona, Eurecat and the University of Catalonia from Spain, Amsterdam City Council, Stichting Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen Privacy & Identity Lab, Dyne and the Waag Society in the Netherlands, Politecnico di Torino/Nexa from Italy, Centre d’économie de la Sorbonne (CNRS) from France and Arduino from Sweden.

DECODE has been funded with €5 million out of the EU’s Horizons fund until 2019.

Colin Marrs

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