Urban Data Commons

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Compiled by Rok Kranjc, on the basis of Article: Iaione et al. (2019) The Internet of Humans

Case study groupings


“In the wireless area, we decided to start with mapping cases of community-led projects and urban public policies aimed at improving access to power or its distribution in the governance of technological infrastructures and services. The production and governance of these kinds of commons, which can be defined as infrastructure commons, is particularly interesting at the neighborhood/district level where different experiences have been registered; e.g. community created and user-managed wireless mesh or collectively managed broadband networks”


“When it comes to discussing data in the frame of a just smart transition, it is worth elaborating on the opportunity that the internet provides and allows underserved communities to share and reproduce data, communicate, and access services.” Energy “The collaboration between different urban actors in the production, distribution, management, and ownership of urban energy is a key challenge to be addressed by a model of a smart city that implements a right to the tech approach.”

Cases mentioned

Amsterdam FabLab/Smart Citizens Lab, based at the Waag Society; small local laboratories equipped with a wide array of technologies and tools where (lay) people can launch experiments and experience technology.

‘‘Citi-Sense’ project based in the Barcelona Citizens’ Observatory between 2012-2016

For the Sidewalk Toronto project, a Civic Data Trust managing Urban Data was created

Some examples of platform cooperativism applied to platforms that are relevant at the urban level already exist, such as Cooperatively Owned Online Labor Brokerages and Market Places, such as Juno, a ride-sharing company that reserved 50% of its equity for riders.

In Spain, the Guifi community network is noteworthy; it is widely diffused across the country and in particular, in the rural Region of Catalonia where it originated in 2004. The region suffers a lack of broadband access and the Guifi network was exactly aimed at tackling this issue. The Guifi network implemented an expansion strategy based on transparency and collaboration. The basic condition for joining the community is a Wireless Commons license, which considers non-licensed bands a public asset and establishes the Guifi network as being constructed from collaborative individual contributions and as having no proprietor.

Born as a non-profit association, the Guifi network created in 2009, in light of its great success in terms of number of users that joined the network, the “Guifi Foundation,” a legal entity with the rights to provide telecommunications services according to Spanish law, while maintaining the original spirit of collaboration and openness. The Guifi networ is particular, among the many examples of wireless community networks, because of its strong focus on self-regulation (the Wireless Commons License).

In Germany, the Freifunk community is worthy of attention. It is legally structured as a formal organization registered as network/telecom operator, and it is characterized as strongly decentralized.

Finally, an example that shows the role of the city as an enabler of the creation of a public-private-community partnership for the creation of a wireless network is the Coviolo wireless project in the city of Reggio Emilia (Emilia Romagna Region, Italy). The city of Reggio Emilia, a private business and an urban community formed a partnership for the creation and co-governance of a wireless network. The city contributes with financial support and offering free electric power to the urban community involved in the project. The private business will provide the network infrastructure and the management of it. The urban community, organized in the form of a community center will be the intermediary between the users and the infrastructure, managing the access to the network including of the revenues that come from charging users for access (controlled fee of access) and cooperating with the management carried out by the private business.

Two notable examples are the D-Cent and Decode research projects, both supported by the EU through research and experimentation funds. The D-Cent (Decentralised Citizens ENgagement Technologies) research project supported the development of advanced platforms in the EU. In particular, the project supported the Decidim Barcelona57 platform linked with the civic movement “Barcelona en Comu”

An example of a community-led financial solution to expand the community production of solar energy in the U.S. context is the Vilawatt project carried out by the city of Viladecans, which implemented an innovative approach with EU support through the Urban Innovative Action program, part of the Regional Development Fund. It foresees the implementation of a public-private-citizen partnership for energy governance, starting with an experiment in the Montserratina District. The transition will begin with the creation of an Innovative Public-Private-Citizen Governance Partnership at Local level (PPCP) that will manage the new local tools for the transition: energy supply, energy currency, energy savings services, deep energy renovation investments and renewable energy production. Members of the entity will be the municipality together with the local businesses and the citizens of Viladecans, and it will create a local energy operator who will be the local energy supplier and the renewable energy producer, and an energy savings company, offering energy savings services and energy renovation investment to all the members."