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= "DECODE provides tools that put individuals in control of whether they keep their personal data private or share it for the public good".


Consortium linked to EU research project, with partners including Amsterdam and Barcelona


David Meyer:

"Barcelona's new approach is to "recognise that the citizens are the ones that own the data," Bria said. Along with Amsterdam and a dozen other partners from the worlds of academia, tech and consultancy, the Catalan capital is involved in consortium called Decode that has €5 million worth of funding from the European Commission – and that could end up stimulating genuinely grassroots rivals to Silicon Valley's "sharing economy" platforms.

"The citizen gets to decide what data they want to donate, and on what terms"

"The citizen gets to decide what data they want to donate, and on what terms. Data is not centralised in the hands of very few players," Bria said of Decode's aims. "This is the first step to creating next-generation collaborative economy platforms that are more distributed and sustainable."

The project may also find a way through one of the thorniest issues about the smart city: privacy. Much of the information that powers smart cities is personal data that comes from and can identify individuals, particularly when data from different sources is correlated. If, for example, citizens put sensors in their homes to measure noise levels or air quality, they will first have to get over the fact that these sensors might capture information about them too. So the consortium is considering the use of blockchain technology, together with encryption, to provide a fine-grained permissions system for accessing and controlling data.

"We are implementing Decode so that the citizens can say, 'OK, I only want to share this data with my community, or with the city, because if the city gets this data, they can do something about the noise level', Bria said." (


Decode in Barcelona

Francesca Bria:

"The city of Barcelona wants to give citizens greater control over how government agencies and businesses use their data and information.

This year, the city will be running a pilot of a “Blockchain-based decentralised data infrastructure for citizens to own their data”, Francesca Bria, Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer, tells GovInsider. With the platform, Barcelona wants to make it “very clear that the citizens are the one that decides how their data should be shared, with whom and on what basis,” Bria says.

The €5 million (~US$5.6 million) project, called DECODE, will involve pilots in Barcelona and Amsterdam. Bria, who was speaking at the Innovation Growth Lab 2017 Global Conference in Barcelona last week, shares with GovInsider how Barcelona is giving citizens data sovereignty through this project; providing open access to technologies; and fostering a digital economy.

The platform allows citizens to share only what they are comfortable and willing to share. “It’s about what data they want to donate,” Bria says. “People will put a lot of personal data: what they like, what they don’t like, location data, their political views, social media data,” she believes.

Citizens are now “much more aware” of the value that their data holds, Bria says, and because of that, they may willingly donate data to the city “to improve mobility, to improve education, to improve services.”

On the flipside, Bria points out that “maybe [citizens] are not so keen” for their data to fall into the hands of insurance or advertising companies, for use in unintended ways. She is herself a strong advocate for open access and digital rights.

The platform is to ensure that “[citizens] are in control, not the government, so this remains citizen-owned data”, according to Bria." (