Data Sovereignty: a key issue for municipalities

Data sovereignty, the idea that data are subject to laws and governance structures within a specific entity, is a key issue for municipalities when it comes to their democratic self-determination as smart cities. This was the topic of the international workshop „Data Sovereignty in Municipalities“ where German and international experts as well as members of the German Smart Cities Dialogue Platform discussed opportunities and challenges of data sovereignty on a municipal level.

At their keynote presentation Francesca Bria, President of the Italian National Innovation Fund and head of the DECODE project on data sovereignty in Europe, and Malcolm Bain, partner at Across Legal Barcelona and specialist in IT and intellectual property law, gave a sound overview of the challenges and potential for municipalities when it comes to data sovereignty. Francesca Bria noted that cities are nowadays facing a triple crisis in the area of public health, climate and economy, and play at the same time a key role in addressing the challenges of digital transformation. Francesca Bria argued that European municipalities should focus on citizen participation and become „people-serving smart cities“.

Malcolm Bain focused on the legal issues of developing a digital future in municipalities where data sovereignty of citizens is a central issue. He emphasized that data as a public good are essential for urban development and should become an integral part of a city’s identity. For Mr Bain the Data Management Regulation – adopted in Barcelona in 2018 – is a pioneering step towards creating a regulatory framework for data sovereignty in governance structures, management processes and IT architectures. Cross-sectoral cooperation and open-source solutions are of paramount importance in this context.

Johanna Pasilkar (Helsinki) and Wilhelmiina Griep (Espoo) explained the MyData project in Finland, a user-controlled management system of personal data at city level. Aik van Eemeren (City of Amsterdam) presented two pilots in Amsterdam of DECODE, „Gebiedonline“ (Neighbourhood Online) and „Fairbnb„. The international workshop enabled participants to discuss in great detail guiding principles for data sovereignty and their views on how municipalities can lead the way toward data sovereignty. The discussion will be used to further develop the Smart City guidelines for urban data governance