Developing Open-Data Governance in Smart Cities

The democratization of data in cities will require robust governance platforms.

Citizens increasingly demand access to meaningful data, and cities are responding by building platforms that improve municipal service delivery and urban quality of life.

Developing “smartness” in the eye of the citizen means developing contextual applications for them.

“Developing ‘smartness’ in the eye of the citizen means developing contextual applications for them,” said Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research vice president at Gartner.

For example, this goes beyond simply displaying a train timetable to indicating available seats on board, or alternative routes based on your current location in the event of disruption.

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Ms. Tratz-Ryan added that, with this democratization of data, CIOs will play a vital role in empowering chief digital officers (CDOs) and urban planners. Collectively these leaders need to take certain actions when designing and implementing data and information platforms. The three steps to open data governance in smart cities are:

  1. Create a smart city data governance plan
    The complexity and volume of data is ever increasing. Cities can extract data from their own operations to understand how things can become “smarter”, as well as the data that citizens generate through their everyday activities.

    Although data mining from social information is nothing new, there are questions over how comfortable citizens are about its use. For CDOs, it is critical to develop a comprehensive smart city data governance plan to audit the “usefulness” of data collection, then transparently communicate what data is being used, and when, to build trust with citizens.

  2. Build different user interfaces
    The digitalization of our lives means information and services can be increasingly tailored to the user. Machine learning and digital business also allow services and applications to be updated in real time. However, IT leaders and planners need to create an open environment for data translation to make it accessible to everyone, and not just to data scientists.

    Dashboards and interactive statistics that are easy to understand mean users can reap the benefits of smarter environments. In Austin, Texas, for example, planners started an open-data governance model that shows data from local transport control centers. Instead of statistics, they built a website for commuters to make decisions about journeys based on real-time data.

  3. Curate an open innovation and developer forum
    One major opportunity when building smart cities is creating an interactive data model to engage citizens and businesses. Through collaboration initiatives, such as hackathons, new ideas for the city can be developed. To support citizen entrepreneurship, from residential to business users, CDOs must build an open innovation and developer forum tailored to their city’s requirements. As a result, data scientists and application developers can use data from open-city data portals to create insights and services.

“API-driven access like this can also ensure an enforcement point for data governance, which should be in place at the start,” Ms. Tratz-Ryan said. “CitySDK, a project by the European Commission, and the Smart Nation API coLab from Singapore are two examples already in progress.”

Open-data governance is paramount to building a smart city. Preparing for privacy issues, accommodating informative visualization and fostering a culture of open innovation will help CDOs, CIOs and urban planners to succeed in this quest.


Gartner clients can learn more in the report titled "Open Data Governance Is Key to Building a Smart City" by Bettina Tratz-Ryan et al.

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