#DataForGood or #DataForMoney?

Why is it necessary to have data from both the public sector and companies in order to make municipalities sustainably smart? What are the advantages of collaborations between government and business in the field of digital urban development – and what does it take for them to succeed in the common good? We discussed this with you and our panelists at the networking event “#DataForGood or #DataForMoney?” on April 7 in Berlin. Click here for the recording!  Voices of our speakers on the topic can be found at the end of this viewpoint, which was published in Tagesspiegel Background Smart City & Verwaltung on April 5.

AI-based analyses are supposed to reduce energy consumption in municipal buildings, digital twins visualize the flow of traffic in a 3D city model, and apps show which elevator in which subway station is really working at a specific point in time. At first glance, these innovative solutions don’t have much to do with each other. But a second glance reveals an important commonality: they all need real-time data to function.

And this is where the normal odyssey of every municipality, every region and every municipal utility begins. Many cities, municipalities, counties and municipal enterprises are just swimming in ideas about how they could use innovative and data-based solutions to solve the many small and large challenges of everyday life – and how they could use the tools of digitization to make a contribution in the fight against climate change. For example, by automatically identifying parking violators at charging stations or saving energy and CO2 through better building management. Unfortunately, the journey to greater efficiency and sustainable, citizen-centric solutions often takes longer than planned.

The reason: lack of access to data. This is because the data is buried deep in departments and units. Or behind walls of data protection regulations. Or is reluctant to be shared anyway. These are just a few of the many arguments why data is ultimately not available. In addition, data is rarely available in the quality needed to breathe life and value into data-based applications.

Fragmented market harms data exchange

On the other hand, data is often abundant at companies – and yes, I’m referring here to municipal utilities, which often take on a hybrid role in smart city and data issues. In many cases, this is data that can be of great importance for public good-oriented urban development. Or rather, could be.

Imagine what would be possible if public administrators could access aggregated and anonymized real-time data from delivery services, e-scooter rental companies, car manufacturers, energy giants, and so on. But the way the exchange of data between the public and private sectors is currently organized, the dream of greater efficiency is fizzling out faster than Ulysses can say “Ithaca.”

Individual municipalities negotiate with individual companies for individual data sets. This brings neither the municipalities nor the companies any long-term advantage – not to mention science and the citizens. The market is fragmented: And this regularly leads to more resentment than euphoria when implementing data-based applications.

Courage is lacking

It is understandable that not every company wants to and can share all data openly. And no one is asking for that. But we need to finally start using the tools that make it possible to share data sovereignly between the public and private sectors. In a way that benefits everyone.

From a technical perspective, this requires standards within data spaces on the one hand, and role and rights management on the other, which allows stakeholders to share specific data sets with specific organizations for specific purposes over a specific period of time, if necessary.

The technology to do this is already there. But it often lacks the courage to innovate and collaborate. Okay, every now and then there is a lack of money. But without the courage to drill the thick planks of administration, even funding is of only limited help if we want to make sovereign data exchange possible across the board.

In addition to this courage, the establishment of a neutral intermediary is central to enabling the exchange of data between the public sector, business and also with science and citizens in a contractually regulated manner.

The basis is there – let’s get started!

And last but not least, neither courage nor mediators will help if the knowledge about existing possibilities is missing. In order to make the exchange of data for and the replication of data-based solutions possible quickly and easily, there needs to be strong networking and intensive exchange among the municipal players – both between the municipal administrations and the municipal utilities.

So let’s start the journey together: towards more data partnerships and the sovereign exchange of data between all stakeholders. How? By gathering our courage, using existing tools for interoperability, networking through organized formats – and most importantly: getting started.

We also asked our panelists about the topic: voices from Lea Hemetsberger (DKSR), Zehra Öztürk (Hamburg Senate Chancellery), Alanus von Radecki (DKSR), Sonja Spürkmann (Berliner Stadtreinigung) and Philipp Wilimzig (Smart Village Solutions).

Want to see the full recording of the event? This way.