Interoperability is crucial in the context of a city, where services such as mobility, housing, health, water and waste management interact, provided by a combination of public authorities at local, regional and national level and a myriad of private operators.
Business to Government (B2G) data sharing workshop - 5th and final workshop
The 5th (and last) workshop of the B2G data sharing in cities series of workshops aimed to draw conclusions from the series of meetings and put forward recommendations for future activities. The workshop was attended by around 40 participants from cities and communities as well as Commission services, and was moderated by Lodewijk Noordzij from Eurocities.
The session began with a presentation on the lessons learnt by cities, delivered by Federica Bordelot (Eurocities). The workshops highlighted the fact that B2G data sharing is not really a technical issue; challenges are often organisational, legal, cultural and political in nature. The use cases presented by cities revealed a great variety of approaches regarding when and how data is shared, how much data is held by the city, and how it can be accessed from a legal perspective. Cities are also very different in terms of size, capacity and resources. Therefore, while cities share common objectives, there is no homogenous approach and methodology for B2G data sharing across the EU. Each city has a tendency to reinvent the wheel and focus on the local dimension. It is therefore difficult to look at the bigger picture on how to scale up cities' individual experiences.
Cities said that the quality of data is crucial for government. Improving the quality of data is linked to cultural change and political willingness, something they wish to work on. B2G data sharing practices also differ according to the sector; the market for sharing mobility data is more mature than that of energy and short-term rentals, while the market for financial data is still fragmented. The previous workshops showed that the use cases using mandatory data sharing were not always successful. Often two-way data sharing arrangements based on cooperation and partnership were more effective.
There is a clear agreement that B2G data sharing is important for the growth of the local/regional ecosystem, but not all cities are benefitting. While cities are different, they have common needs and goals, often different to national level, so dialogue is needed between different levels of government. Cities wish to move to the next phase of data-sharing; exchange their experiences and stimulate upscaling. Some concrete ideas suggested included: working on shared goals and principles for win-win partnerships; building EU data spaces; exploring what roles data intermediaries could play for cities, and whether cities could act as data intermediaries; putting in place an EU catalogue system for data; and establishing a clear EU regulatory framework with related financial support.
The establishment of data spaces under the EU Data Strategy will be a crucial learning experience for cities, but different sectors may need different approaches. The mobility data market is rather mature and can be upscaled by following the model of Member States that have established national mobility data access points. EU Data Access Point(s) could support national access points. In the energy sector, where the data market is less mature, there is a need for more government intervention to create a market, perhaps also supported at EU level. The upcoming Data Act might also be helpful in this regard. As regards sharing data for short-term holiday rentals, the idea of developing and implementing a Trusted Third Party (entity) for data-sharing could be beneficial.
Cities also proposed establishing a ‘B2G data sharing expert group’ comprising public authorities (European Commission, Member States, regions, cities) and private players in order to work on identifying shared goals, agree the types of data to be shared and develop a common approach or Code of Conduct. As a shorter-term objective, cities see the importance of connecting initiatives, stimulating the exchange of good practice and knowledge, and providing structural support for national and regional data spaces.
Representatives of the European Commission also presented their reflections on the lessons learnt from the workshops. Andrea Halmos (DG CONNECT, Technologies for Smart Communities) echoed the main challenges cities face when accessing business data. Because of its quality and time sensitivity, data held by platform economy companies is of high interest to local administrations. However, cities often lack the appropriate governance structures to access this kind of data. Indeed, beyond technical issues, organisational, legal and cultural challenges all have to be addressed. The forthcoming climate natural smart communities’ data space (part of the European Green Deal data space) will agree the key datasets that can be accessed under similar conditions across the EU. In terms of organisational capacity, cities that have not done so may benefit from establishing the role of (local) data stewards or data sharing experts within their administration. She also highlighted the relevance of the European Interoperability Framework for Smart Cities and Communities (EIF4SCC), which explores the technical and non-technical aspects of interoperability. Accessing relevant datasets from companies often requires lengthy negotiation. Cities could benefit from assistance from the Support Centre for Data Sharing that provides standardised license agreements. Given that companies will often only share their data if legally required to do so and not voluntarily, cities should continue to share examples of win-win data sharing use cases to encourage this type of data-sharing. Companies also highlighted the lack of interoperability between data formats used by different cities, making it difficult for them to meet cities’ competing demands. In some cases this has encouraged companies to set up their own data-sharing platform that cities can access. However, these arrangements may not lead to data being accessible for cities. To resolve this, cities and Member States may wish to encourage use of common data formats, for example through National Contact Points. Both companies and local administrations called for a clear legislative framework to ensure trust and legal certainty. The forthcoming data space for smart communities is considered to be highly important in this regard. The data space could agree a ‘Data Survival Kit’ (key datasets based on common use cases) that could be jointly identified with data owners. National networks of cities (or National Contact Points), acting as an intermediary or data hub, could also support the exchange of data in two directions with private sector entities. These national portals or data hubs could establish win-win terms and conditions with private companies. The Commission encouraged cities to continue discussions and the exchange of good practice exchange on B2G data sharing via the Living-in.EU community.
Daniele Rizzi (DG CONNECT, Unit G1, Data Policy and Innovation) focused on the resources available to cities to support their B2G data sharing requirements. The Support Centre for Data Sharing (financed under the Connecting Europe Facility, CEF) contains a set of resources to support data sharing both technically and legally. Resources include guidance on legal considerations and an API licensing assistant. Another set of resources are the CEF Digital building blocks, re-usable digital solutions such as the Context Broker or the Big Data Testing Infrastructure available for free to public administrations and private entities. He then spoke about the approach of the Commission, including the EU Data Strategy, which aims to create the right conditions for people, companies and authorities to share data in a secure and trustworthy way. This strategy is the basis to scale up data sharing in both the public and private sector, including re-use of public data, B2B and B2G activities. The Data Governance Act, currently under negotiation, addresses issues regarding trust in data sharing, re-use of sensitive public sector data under certain strict conditions, a framework for data intermediaries (brokers), and data altruism (data donorship) for the benefit of the citizens. The proposal also foresees the establishment of a European Data Innovation Board, which would guide decisions on data sharing and standardisation. The forthcoming Data Act is currently under public consultation.
Marina Micheli, (Joint Research Centre JRC, Unit B6, Digital Economy) expanded on her analysis of the most common operational models adopted by cities for B2G data sharing presented at the first workshop. In addition to data altruism, purchase of data, contracts and licensing agreements, data sharing pools as well as challenges or hackathons, she identified national obligations to share data (for example energy data) as an additional approach highlighted by cities during the workshops. She recognised that data sharing pools, a real win-win model, was not very common, it was the preferred option of cities. Current experiences are bilateral, but there are some promising efforts at multilateral partnerships, such as partnerships with a number private entities by a single municipality (eg the Smart City Control Room in Florence and the RUDI project in Rennes and partnerships with a network of cities (eg the Dutch national network initiated by Amsterdam). Networks have greater bargaining power with Big Tech than a single city and they also facilitate sharing capacity and agreement models. They may also be able to ensure that data shared is of a higher quality. She made suggestions for futher exploration, including the creation of national access points for data, which already exist for road authority data, or an EU Data Access Point. She also raised the idea of a ‘data survival kit', a common set of data useful for all cities that should be more accessible and perhaps mandatory.
Participating cities were then asked to reflect on the main obstacles for B2G data sharing and to share expectations and ideas for future cooperation on this topic. Cities indicated that beyond the quantity of data, its quality and reliability were also key. There is a need for a solid system for real-time data, and interoperability across sectors is also critical. B2G data sharing can lead to improved services, and even new services, in a city. The impact on citizens of greater data-sharing merits further analysis. Some cities (Barcelona) plan to create legal clauses to make private sector data available for public use. This may be difficult to implement at EU level, because in EU projects, when companies receive a grant (co-funding) the ownership of the results remain with the project, not the European Commission, so it is not always easy to impose a formal obligation. However, the EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020 and its successor, Horizon Europe, require research results to be made publicly available. Some long-term infrastructure projects in cities date back to a period when the value of data was not anticipated, so an obligation for data sharing is difficult to apply retrospectively. However, new negotiations should include provisions relating to data in the contracts. On the other hand, it is not that easy if the company has no legal obligation to share data. While some smaller cities have limited resources to include the right contract clauses or develop new ones, some argued that it is now important to create the momentum; companies will now always be required to share data, so once it is a requirement for all, it may generate open competition. Support from national level and a favourable legislative framework can also change the game. The Open Data Directive for example added the obligation for public untertakings to open up data. Importantly however, the effective legal clauses need to be shared, so as to ensure scaling. Some people suggested pursuing more standardised and interoperable data exchange, to allow the private sector to minimise one-off developments; this could for example be done by bringing businesses around the table when setting data sharing and interoperability standards. The Australian Data Consumer Standards are currently going through this process, facilitating the discussion between government, businesses and NGOs to set standards for data sharing across various industries.
As concrete next steps, cities expressed an interest in continued discussions on data management, data governance and specifically B2G data sharing. Ideas put forward on which to reconvene on; creation of a ‘data survival kit'; a common repository of legal clauses; the role of cities as data intermediaries or use of data intermediaries by cities. The Living-in.EU platform is well suited to bring the entire community together and develop concrete actions together in that context.
The MIMs Plus Technical Specifications version 4.0 final draft is now available for comment until 6 August. The draft was first published on 23 June and discussed at the Living-in.EU Tech Sub Group meeting on 28 June.
The second meeting of Living-in.EU supporters took place on 29 June 2021. The focus of the meeting was the Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms Plus (MIMs Plus) and featured speakers from the European Commission, Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC), FIWARE, NEC, DKSR and others.
Slovenia has joined the Living-in.eu movement. Boštjan Koritnik, Minister of Public Administration, signed the Join Boost Sustain declaration at the Slovenian Presidency Conference “EU as a Community of People” on 8 July 2021.