In a Nutshell

Cities are becoming smarter and more responsive to the needs of residents and visitors. There is a potential for everyone to benefit from better services and improved quality of life. Achieving these benefits is only possible if data is collected and shared to inform urban planning and service delivery.

Data should be collected and shared in cities only when:

  • There is a clear and substantial benefit for residents

  • There is sufficient digital governance in place to advance the rights, freedoms and interests of residents and visitors and protect them from risk

A civic digital trust provides one promising approach to responsibly share smart city data. A civic digital trust could:

  • Establish a group of trustees with a fiduciary responsibility to steward a city's digital assets and data in the best interests of residents and visitors

  • Empower residents and strengthen democratic decision making processes related to digital governance

  • Actively protect against data breaches and misuses; assure individual and group privacy; advance equitable distribution of value; and promote regional economic competitiveness

A civic digital trust would go beyond existing privacy legislation with a pro-active approach to representing the interests of residents. It would also provide citizens with an additional layer of legal recourse against data abuses.

There are multiple ways a civic digital trust could be implemented in practice. It could be housed within a government agency; established as a not for profit organization; or run as a social enterprise. The technical architecture could be a centralized hub; a decentralized ecosystem of databases connected by common standards; or a hybrid model somewhere in between. Each option is fit for different purposes, depending on the sensitivity, complexity, and uncertainty of the data and its uses.

This Primer explores five use cases of specific benefits from responsibly sharing data. They are: sharing energy usage data; building usage data; mobility data; health data; and combining smart city data with mobile and consumer data. Each of these use cases demonstrates possible combinations of legal, business model, and technical architectures in a plausible scenario. The purpose of the use cases is to provoke a conversation about what data people are comfortable with sharing, and with what conditions.

The Primer is designed to be read actively. There are small surveys embedded throughout the Primer so you can have your say about what matters most to you. If you can do a better job of writing a section, you should edit the Gitbook and submit an upgrade. We want this to be a resource that becomes more relevant over time.

We think that three next steps are required:

  1. A much broader public engagement needs to happen about smart city data sharing

  2. People need to build pop-up prototypes so that it is possible for residents to experience the benefits of a civic digital trust in action

  3. We should actively explore other models of data sharing so that we can understand which model works best in different situations

We hope that as you read this Primer, you will actively contribute to it, and consider joining us in taking these next steps together!