Achieving Community-driven Smart Cities

Achieving Community-driven Smart Cities

How data decentralisation can bring better services and agency for citizens of smart cities

As interest grows in smart cities around the world, particularly in the US, a greater understanding of data use is needed so that citizens can have better services as well as agency in their interactions with their cities. 

This was the focus of the Feb 16 pre-Symposium chat with Urban Systems CEO Wilfred Pinfold and Dataswyft Chief Strategy Officer Ben Forbes, whose conversation also considered how a decentralised data architecture grounded on personal data ownership could be used in the context of community-driven smart cities. There was much discussion around the following:

Getting smart cities investment right

  • The smart side of smart cities is fairly nascent, but the right infrastructure spending for the next 30-40 years needs to be put in place for better operational and maintenance cost savings over the long term as well as address sustainability issues in tackling carbon use and climate change. 

Open source is the way to go 

  • Open-source data is critical to creating well-functioning, community-driven smart cities, as many of them face similar challenges in trying to build complex technical solutions within their infrastructure. 
  • Open-source communities such as can facilitate common data APIs that are customisable for individual cities, allowing a consistent direction to be set for interoperability between cities and data portability between municipalities. 

Loss of agency over citizens’ data

  • To give their citizens the best services, cities need to collect a lot of their personal information. Much of this data – captured in documents like driver’s licenses, birth certificates, credit cards end up in huge data lakes that can be accessed without permission from the individuals themselves. This means they lose agency over their personal data.   

A citizen app to address the agency issue

  • This agency can be restored through a citizen app that holds information in a personal data store that’s quickly and easily validated, allowing citizens to securely transact with any service using their own data. This also enables cities to tailor their services according to individual needs. 
  • Such a citizen app also removes the friction associated with the need for citizens to verify who they are and their data, allowing them to become active participants in society.

Low-friction transactions for societal good

  • Low-friction transactions and interactions with governments, companies, and between individuals themselves can help societal segments in need; ie. those who are homeless could easily access essential services like healthcare and foodbanks through their citizen app which stores their verified identification data in a way that protects their privacy and also gives them agency over how they use their data. 
  • Low friction also supports incentive-based transactions aimed at societal good; ie. rewarding those who reduce their carbon footprint by leaving their cars at home through reimbursing them for their public transport costs, quickly verifying this through their citizen app on their phones. 

Computing on the edge/data on the edge

  • This can help simplify compliance with data regulations like GDPR by creating provenance at the edge point, as the individual is involved in the transaction in which their data is being used. 
  • Edge computing that provides data on demand also offers the individual greater agency to make decisions about their own data, allowing them to take socially important actions like fighting climate change.

Catch up on the full conversation here:

WIlfred will also be presenting at the 5th Symposium on the Digital Person on March 1.

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