Personal data fuels smart city programs

Many citizens will be sharing information about themselves with municipal governments -- in exchange for enhanced services
Written by Bob Violino, Contributor

A few cities are already building data marketplaces, especially in light of the increasing streams of data from the IoT.

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If you live in a big city, chances are pretty good that you'll be sharing a lot more of your personal information with government entities within a few years.

Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2019, half of citizens in million-people cities will benefit from smart city programs by voluntarily sharing their personal data. The volume and diversity of the information generated by citizens will continue to rise in line with the proliferation of consumer devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), the firm says.

Citizens of smart cities will experience some of the benefits of sharing data passively, through government and commercial collaboration. But as this hyperconnectivity picks up pace, they will become more aware of the value of their personal data and will be willing to proactively exchange it for "in the moment" value, Gartner says.

What will help drive the data-sharing trend is the fact that the rapid pace of technological and societal change is giving government chief information officers a new sense of urgency and a willingness to experiment with smart city and open data initiatives, according to Gartner. If managed effectively, this shift will position governments at the core of technological innovation in society.

"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," said 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."

The process of data sharing is also being sped up by demands for efficiency and convenience. For example, a major barrier for citizens interacting with government is the complexity of engaging through a variety of touch points. Simple queries about a person's eligibility to vote can lead people through complex processes and rules and onto multiple websites.

Citizens are turning to conversational platforms such as virtual personal assistants and chatbots over traditional applications and websites, Gartner notes. At the same time, government agencies are also adapting to this change.

A result of these activities is that the volume of machine-readable data generated about how people interact with city governments is growing rapidly, creating a huge opportunity to develop open data portals that can increase efficiency, improve user experience, drive innovation, and generate revenue for government organizations.

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

A few cities are already building data marketplaces, especially in light of the increasing streams of data from the IoT. An early example is the Copenhagen Data Exchange, which Gartner says is taking the first steps of connecting citizens to data, providing online city records and a mix of lenses through which to view the information.

The next step in building a true marketplace is to present and act on this data for more business-oriented benefits, the firm says. It predicts that 20 percent of all local government organizations will generate revenue from value-added open data through data marketplaces by 2020.

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