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This article was originally published on Cities-Today.com

By Bart Rosseau, Chief Data Officer, City of Ghent

Linked open data

Linked open data on a semantic website might seem distant from the daily operations of local government, but in Ghent we believe the benefits outweigh the possible pitfalls of using this pioneering technology.

Originally defined by Sir Tim Berners Lee, the semantic web aims to connect data and meaning (not just the values but also the definitions) on a scale the size of the Internet. So you have not only a web of text and images but also of data with the same ease to jump from one data point to another, enabling artificial intelligence and humans to reason over these data points. Linked open data on a semantic website might seem distant from the daily operations of local government, but in Ghent we believe the benefits outweigh the possible pitfalls of using this pioneering technology.

Using the web as a distribution platform of contextualised data will allow us to distribute content, and filter datasets that are disconnected by design. Through machine-readable definitions and uniform resource identifiers (URIs), government-managed datasets become anchor points, allowing external data providers to add their content to those concepts. This allows for a more extensive knowledge graph based on linking data to content, rather than coupling on a technical level. As this is distributed over the Internet, there is no limit to possible links with other cities, government levels, companies, civil society and others.

Most of all, in Ghent we have experienced the benefits in a more internal alignment. By developing the semantic vocabularies we saw different city services agreeing on common terminology and meaning, and agreeing to coordinate data governance.

More institutions are adapting this technique, and the need to recognise and attract people with the right skillset is growing. Semantic experts and linked-data professionals are not knocking on our door (yet) but as more open source tools and accessible training programmes become available, the understanding, added value and sustainability will become essential to any data governance unit.

There is a huge difference in this evolution compared to other trends. The DNA of the semantic web is to reference data to validated concepts (ranging from peer-to-peer validation to internationally approved standards). There is a need to (re)use existing definitions, but also provide enough space to expand the definitions to suit specific needs.

Incremental approach

Until now, two projects have proved to be milestones in making us acquainted with the technology and its possibilities.

The first project was internal, where we added a machine-readable semantic context to our existing webpages. This meant that a published news item on our website became enriched with information on the location it referred to–the relevant city department, the responsible politician, its theme and so on. By applying the right query language, a local startup could filter the information and distribute it on their hyper local platform.

The OASIS project (https://oasis.team/) is a good example of how we can work internationally. The project (supported by the EU through its Connecting Europe Facility programme) has enabled us to work with Madrid to define vocabularies for public transport and city-issued government services.OASIS-project-Ghent

By adopting defined vocabularies, a web-based query to find government services, opening hours, the right department and the relevant public transport to take you there, becomes available, regardless of the language the web-based text is published in.

Of course, there are still some challenges. The short-term budgetary gains are not apparent, so the business case requires some more long-term thinking. There are still some debates on what supporting technology will prove to be the industry standard. The tools to make the wealth of information available to non-technical people are eagerly awaited.

The deep understanding and practical value needs to be developed, to embed this into the existing practices of IT and organisational development.

However, the implications and possibilities exceed the traditional boundaries of data management. Defining concepts and providing validated URIs for key policy tools and identities means that the role of the government as a validating, trusting authority becomes articulated in a digital world. For instance, providing URIs to government-approved initiatives–schools, philanthropic organisations and others–will add credentials that are easily shared and used in a digital environment.

Defining concepts by different government levels provides a more solid core to organise intergovernmental reporting and data exchange.

We are still in the early stages of this technology, the challenges are there, but so are the benefits.

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As from May 2018, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will take effect and impact all EU cities, asked to appoint a data protection officer (DPO) and to implement a series of new rules and practices. Sharing good practices related to the implementation of the GDPR has been identified as a priority in the frame of the Data Working Group of EUROCITIES’ Knowledge Society Forum.

More information on https://www.eugdpr.org/

Download the executive-summary_GuiDanCe GDPR training January 22 2018 Bruxelles

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Collective brainstorming

To support GDC signatory cities and KSF member cities in understanding the implication of the new privacy rules in the EU, the GuiDanCe project,supporting the implementation of the Charter for the period 2015-2018, organised a technical workshop untited ‘the GDPR demystified‘ on Monday 22 January 2018 in Brussels. [see the call for participation here]

This training was designed to help cities’ data experts to understand the concepts and processes necessary for the data management chain within a city administration to deal with citizens’ privacy while delivering smart services.

The workshop was delivered by Antonio Kung (chair of the EIP-SCC initiative ‘citizen approach to data: privacy-by-design) and Antony Page (GDPR lead for the H2020 Smart Cities & Communities project Sharing Cities).

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Presentation of Barcelona roadmap to GDPR compliance

21 participants from 13 cities learned how to conduct a privacy impact assessment (P.I.A) based on four specific and concrete use-cases presented by four volunteering cities:

  • A specific application (smart energy sensors in social housing) by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, London;
  • A specific application (using non-motorised traffic metrics for optimizing traffic flow, by the city of Eindhoven;
  • The general case of open data, by the city of Espoo;
  • The general case of building a roadmap for GDPR compliance, by the city of Barcelona.

 

Among the observations and recommendations produced by the session: the need for trusted party audit – the challenge of handing consent for collecting personal data before the anonymisation process – the linkability issue of collected dataset with other datasets – the impact on city administration…

Read more in the executive-summary_GuiDanCe GDPR training January 22 2018 Bruxelles

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In a discussion published on the new version of the EIP-SCC website, Graham Colclough (UrbanDNA) makes an attempt to answer a critical question for the ‘smart city’ market and yet, one that is quite impossible to get an easy answer to: How much does an urban data platform cost?

For the full article, click here.

What matters for us in this article are the definitions of ‘smart city’ concepts as used and understood within the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC), and in particular in its Action Cluster working on ‘Urban Platforms’.

 

Those definitions are being relayed in italics below and this article goes beyond them, to investigate the deeper costs (or societal challenges) that can be brought about by urban data platforms.

An ‘Urban Platform’ is …

… the implemented realisation of a loigcal architecture/design that brings together (we say “integrates”) data flows within and across city systems

… and exploits modern technologies (sensors, cloud services, mobile devices, analytics, social media etc)

… providing the building blocks that enable cities to rapidly shift from fragmented operations to include predictive effective operations, and novel ways of engaging and serving city stakeholders

… in order to transform, in a  way that is tangible and measurable, outcomes at local level (e.g. increase energy efficiency, reduce traffic congestion and emissions, create (digital) innovation ecosystems, efficient city operations for administrations and services).

Why does Europe need harmonised standards for smart cities? Read the full interview with Dita Charanzová, a Czech MEP and vice-chair of the European Parliament’s Internal Market Committee, published on euractiv.com.


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City Data

‘City Data’ is that which is held by any organisation – government, public sector, private sector or not-for-profit – which is providing a service or utility, or is occupying part of the city in a way that can be said to have a bearing on local populations and the functioning of that space.

This initial part of the definition brings the question of data ownership. Who owns the data collected in smart cities? What impact on citizens’ privacy? On this issue, the European Parliament published in September 2015 a study for the LIBE committee untitled ‘Big Data and Smart Devices and Their Impact on Privacy’.

It can be static, near-real time or in the future, real time, descriptive or operational.

Further, in the future, data will be to a greater extent generated by individual citizens and this too (with due consideration to privacy and a strong trust framework) can be considered city data.

 

What can cities do to protect privacy?
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While acknowledging that urban data platforms are engines for more efficient urban governance (in the area of energy and mobility especially), good governance implies the adoption of a clear data management scheme, in line with EU rules.

In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the new EU legal framework on data privacy and security which attempts to deal with these challenges, adopted in April 2016. A dedicated portal has been created to prepare all actors collecting, processing and storing data in Europe, and that of European citizens. Visit the GDPR portal at http://www.eugdpr.org/

Earlier this year, the Green Digital Charter (GuiDanCe project) organised a webinar on ‘Data management and citizens’ privacy in smart cities’ and open governance. The speakers were Daniel Sarasa (Zaragoza City Council) and Antonio Kung (EIP-SCC ‘Citizen Focus’ Action Cluster on the implementation of the GDPR).

. You can watch the recording at http://bit.ly/2omBDO1.

Wednesday 26 April

14:00 – 15:00 CEST (Brussels time)

WATCH THE RECORDING

Thanks to smartphones and apps, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, networks and sensors deployed throughout public spaces, cities are collecting vast amounts of data beneficial for the ‘public good’. This data enables municipalities to develop better-informed decision-making and improve public services (waste management, traffic prediction, energy efficiency).

This webinar intends to show how data management processes by city administrations and use of privacy-by-design standards are key to build trust and resilience in smart cities and open data.

Interested in the topic? The Future of Privacy Forum offers an interactive infographic on smart cities’ technologies and their implications for privacy [click here]

Speakers

Co-author of ‘Zaragoza’s Open Government Strategy 2012-2015’, Daniel collaborates with EUROCITIES on various smart city initiatives and projects.

Zaragoza received the Green Digital Charter (GDC) 2016 Award on ‘Citizen Engagement and Impact on Society’ for the Zaragoza Citizen Card (watch the interview) and contributed to the CITYkeys project

 

  • Antonio Kung (CTO, Trialog) will bring his expertise how privacy management should be integrated in smart cities.

Partner in the EIP-SCC ‘Citizen Focus’ Action Cluster, Antonio is leading the initiative on ‘Citizen-Centric Approach to Data – Privacy by Design’. Antonio chaired a series of workshops aiming at defining measures supporting the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Download/preview the presentation: Data management in smart cities – protecting citizens privacy Trialog Antonio Kung

This webinar is part of GDC/GuiDanCe series of webinars on Citizens in Smart Cities. It is co-organised with the ESPRESSO project, currently developing a conceptual Smart City Information Framework based on open standards.

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