datavaults citizen control personal data intiative smart cities markeplace

Smart Cities Marketplace – Citizen Control of Personal Data Initiative

DataVaults is leading a new Smart Cities Marketplace Initiative within the Citizen Focus Action Cluster: “Citizen Control of Personal Data”

About the Initiative

Enormous changes will take place in the next few years with the handling of personal data. The advantages of the European approach  are being recognised, in comparison to the disadvantages of the current large-corporation approach, where personal data is collected for narrow commercial benefit, rather than for the greater good of society and the economy.

Challenges in Personal Data Sharing

But serious obstacles remain in place to reaching a situation in which a citizen will willingly share their data. The EU has recognised these obstacles and funded a raft of projects and activities to overcome them, including DataVaults and its sister projects. This initiative will seek to remove these obstacles, bringing together the energy and results from these funded projects and actions.

The “Citizen Control of Personal Data” initiative within the Marketplace can be summed up as helping to build the conditions and relationships whereby the citizen will be willing to share personal data with a city and with other actors in the data economy. Whilst having a clear focus, it will recognise its role in the wider MarketPlace community and contribute as widely as possible, as synergies appear.

Removing obstacles would grow the extremely valuable “personal data lake” which would then increase activity in the data economy and enrich existing data eco-systems.

This in turn would stimulate the take-up and improvement of Urban Data Platforms. The intention would be to contribute to achieving the target of “Speeding the adoption, at scale, of common open urban data platforms, and ensure that 300 million European citizens are served by cities with competent urban data platforms, by 2025.” 

The Vision

Our ambition is to create a movement which will support the removal of the obstacles which currently stand in the way of a citizen happily sharing their data more widely, whilst leaving this process under their own control. This would give the smart cities movement a boost as it will provide access to a rich personal data lake. This would stimulate further activity within the data economy and accelerate the take-up of urban data platforms.

This would grow the the amount of personal data available, which would then increase activity in the data economy and enrich existing data eco-systems. Data can be re-used ad infinitum by all players, once citizens in control of their data approve this.

Further the ambition would be to  help specific clusters achive their own goals. The potential for City data to contribute to data ecosystems tasked with improving mobility, health, energy efficiency, better governance etc. will be significantly enhanced by introducing access to highly coveted and valuable personal data. And DataVaults is active in these fields.

Essentially, the new initiative would provide a route into Marketplace and smart cities for these future developments, so their time to adoption would not suffer any delays. We have identified a  preliminary list of projects whose results we would promote and bring together and a follow-up workshop to the launch will begin the serious work which this initiative will rely on. We would expect to identify within the various networks, the key cities which may become part of a joined-up approach to making this transition-and providing the necessary momentum for take-up and replication.

To say that the background to our work is significant is an understatement. People speak of “digital feudalism” to describe the control which the big technology platforms have over data and efforts have begun to put data back under the control of citizens. The use of data is now the world’s biggest business with some $1.4trn of the combined $1.9trn market value of Alphabet (Google) and Facebook coming from users’ data and the firms’ mining of it. And this is growing with new devices adding to the growing amount of data available. New mechanisms and business models could divert this income flow. Access to data is perhaps now a bigger hindrance to startups than access to capital and making data accessible more widely will help curb monopolistic powers.

Giving citizens control of their data is the first building block. Alongside the empowerment of citizens within the European model, regulation will complement and support this approach with the proposed Data Act in 2021 and use of antitrust laws.

Thus this is the perfect opportunity to „get ahead of the game“ as a roadmap away from the current situation emerges.


The Smart Cities Marketplace

The Smart Cities Marketplace is an initiative supported by the European Commission that brings together cities, industry, small business (SMEs), banks, research and others.

It aims to improve urban life through more sustainable integrated solutions and addresses city-specific challenges from different policy areas such as energy, mobility and transport, and ICT.

It builds on the engagement of the public, industry and other interested groups to develop innovative solutions and participate in city governance.


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Featured Photo by Kevin Ku from Pexels