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Smart City data sharing and monetisation under the spotlight

crowded city

via Flickr © rmlowe (CC BY 2.0)

  • Smart city data exchanges now a thing
  • Key will be mixing in private data with public open data
  • Revenue opportunity for local and city government?

Gartner reckons there’s an important shift under way around smart city data sharing. Local authorities and government CIOs, it claims, are increasingly willing to experiment with smart city and open data initiatives and Gartner suggests that this will result in city governments - and by extension those CIOs - playing an important, revenue-generating role for cities by acting in the longer term as civic information brokers.

They will provide a framework within which citizens could offer up their own private information to bolster the usefulness of open city data. In return the citizens would naturally receive benefits: data access being the obvious one at present (although as the smart city looks increasingly likely to provide data access as a universal amenity, that tradeable ‘benefit’ looks a bit shaky long-term).

Gartner suggests that, as things stand, half the citizens in large (million plus) cities will be sharing their personal data with these smart city programmes by 2019.

"As citizens increasingly use personal technology and social networks to organize their lives, governments and businesses are growing their investments in technology infrastructure and governance," says Anthony Mullen, research director at Gartner. "This creates open platforms that enable citizens, communities and businesses to innovate and collaborate, and ultimately provide useful solutions that address civic needs."

I’m sure Gartner is right and it highlights the almost perennial problem - how should private data and its terms and conditions of exchange be valued and regulated? The danger is that private info and smart city data cleverly combined will be flogged off to those who would use it to spam us to death (or in other ways bolster their revenues and diminish ours as consumers).  

From here to there

So how will this ‘information sharing for reward’ process advance? Gartner expects that the volume and diversity of the data generated by citizens will continue to grow in line with the proliferation of consumer devices and the IoT.

“Citizens will experience some of the benefits of sharing data passively, through government and commercial collaboration. As this hyperconnectivity picks up pace, however, citizens will become more aware of the value of their "life data" and will be willing to proactively exchange it for "in the moment" value, it thinks

“This process of data sharing is being accelerated by the demand for efficiency and convenience. For example, one of the major barriers for citizens interacting with government is the complexity of engaging via a variety of touchpoints. A simple question such as "Am I eligible to vote?" can lead citizens through complex processes and rules and onto a variety of websites.

Citizens, therefore, are turning to conversational platforms like virtual personal assistants and messaging bots over traditional apps and websites.”

Gartner suggest that governments are naturally going down the ‘OK Google’ route and cites the Utah Department of Public Safety which provides a practice exam for its driver's license via Amazon Echo and Singapore collaborating with Microsoft on its "conversation as a platform" initiative to develop chatbots around a number of public services.

What then happens, as the volume of machine-readable data generated on how citizens interact with government and their city grows, is a positive feedback loop enabling big improvements to the ‘citizen’s experience’ which Gartner expects will not only make citizens happy but generate revenue for government organisations.

Really? Discuss.

"Open data portals in cities are not a new thing, but many portals today have limited machine readability and therefore limited business value," said Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research vice president at Gartner. "The city becomes 'smart' when the data is collected and governed in a way that can produce valuable real-time streams, rather than just backward-looking statistics or reports."

The next step in building a true marketplace, says Gartner, is to present and orchestrate this data for more business-oriented benefits. It predicts that 20 per cent of all local government organizations will generate revenue from value-added open data through data marketplaces by 2020. The key to monetization will be automating and extending the user experience to allow citizens and businesses to discover and prepare data, and to find patterns and share them within their community or organization.

"Users will have a number of options to 'pay' for data access depending on the use case," said Ms. Tratz-Ryan. "A normal citizen may simply participate via data democracy and have free access in return for providing their own data, whereas commercial use may require sharing revenue with the data owner, or buying a license to access an enriched data source."

Gartner has embarked on a series of global ‘summits’ where no doubt these issues will be gone into in great depth, as they should be. These are scheduled to take place as the ‘Gartner Data & Analytics Summits’ on:  February 20-21 in Sydney, March 6-9 in Grapevine, Texas, March 20-22 in London, March 23-24 in Tokyo, June 6-7 in Mumbai and June 20-21 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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