Ethical and Responsible Data Management of the Barcelona Data Commons

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* Policy: Ethical and Responsible Data Management: Barcelona Data Commons. Barcelona City Data Commons, February 2018



City Data Commons, by Francesca Bria:

"This new municipal government measure defines the City Council’s data strategy, rolled out under the Digital Transformation Plan.

Barcelona has so far been a leading city in data management, but we want to go further and make a qualitative and quantitative leap.

The digital revolution is also a data revolution. The city has become a place where big data is produced in real time. New technologies such as 5G and the Internet of Things augment that trend: for instance, 90% of data generated as a city today didn’t exist three years ago. Data are considered the oil of the 21st century. The effects can be positive or negative:

Data can generate new monopolies and accumulations of wealth which accentuate inequality. That can bring about major political and ethical dilemmas relating to their control. However, they can help generate evenly-distributed wealth and give us a better understanding of people’s needs and how to elaborate appropriate responses.

The big challenge is to understand the value of data as a common asset and put citizens back in control.

To respond to this challenge, we’re strengthening public leadership in governing city data:

  • Understanding data as an urban infrastructure, just as the provision of water and energy are.
  • Treating data as a common asset, and making them available for social and economic innovation processes.
  • Protecting people’s privacy and data sovereignty.

Specific action involves:

1) Following the example of cities such as New York, Boston, Paris and London, Barcelona is the first Spanish city to set up a Municipal Data Office. Answering to municipal management, the office will be staffed by 40 people (from the Municipal IT Institute and the Technical Programming Cabinet). Its main role will be the analysis of data to make predictions in all areas of interest for managing the city.

2) Opening up municipal data: We’re improving the BCNOpenData site, in operation since 2011, making it more useful for developers and the general public. We’re also setting up a new municipal data website which incorporates various key data from the City Council. In doing so we’re helping the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, SMEs in the ICT sector, and empowering citizens.

3) The new model will include the roll-out of new projects such as:

  • a new control unit for municipal management, improving decision-making.

the Housing Observatory, conducting an ongoing study of the evolution of the housing market and monitoring gentrification.

  • a comprehensive information system offering an overview of economic spaces and activity in Barcelona, redressing the lack of integrated information on economic activity.
  • the launch of challenges for the city’s innovation community, enabling them to use data as a means of resolving current and future challenges for Barcelona.

4) Lastly, the responsible and ethical use of data, which must move us away from the ‘big brother’ image. To achieve this, Barcelona City Council is creating the post of ‘Data Protection Delegate’, in line with the new European data protection regulations. The delegate’s role is to guarantee citizens’ security and privacy.

The measure will be accompanied by an instruction on the Municipal Data Office, defining its management model, as well as the roles and functions of those responsible for the management of data in the City Council."