As technology progresses, it promises unparalleled benefits for public authorities and citizens. As a result, smart cities are becoming increasingly common. Crucially, many are unprepared for the demands of information management, leading to ongoing issues. Proper data governance is crucial for long-term success.
Common Smart City Data Governance Challenges
Smart city data governance is the practice of managing the information generated by smart infrastructure. Considering public authorities will build massive data sets on everything from traffic flow to energy consumption, a safe, ethical processing method is essential. However, many make mistakes that impede this necessity.
The first data governance challenge cities face is insufficient resources. Often, it’s because smart infrastructure requires large investments, leaving little leftover funding. While technology like the Internet of Things (IoT) absorbs information quickly, there are few professionals to process it. A budget or staff shortage presents a long-term issue if it isn’t quickly resolved.
Management is one of the biggest governance challenges smart cities face. Admittedly, there’s an overabundance of data. In fact, humans have produced over 120 trillion gigabytes in less than two decades. Without a management strategy, successful utilization is nearly impossible.
Excess Data Silos
Since smart cities don’t know how to properly manage their constant flow of information, they create silos to divide the effort. As a result, local government agencies lose crucial insights. They also often take longer to complete simple tasks because they must wait to secure data sets from others.
A Lack of Privacy
Privacy is a common concern citizens bring up — especially in cases where the city passes management responsibility to privatized third parties. In these cases, a lack of oversight often leads to misuse, compromising the public’s personal information.
Security is another significant governance challenge. A single cyberattack could cause over $9.44 million in damages, which many cities can’t afford. While the ever-evolving threat landscape makes data breaches, leaks, and tampering almost inevitable, cities still have a duty to protect citizens’ privacy and safety.
Why Smart City Governance Must Improve
Most smart cities face significant data governance issues. Usually, the ongoing management of massive data sets is challenging for them because they have little to no experience with collecting and utilizing information at such a large scale.
That being said, there’s no excuse for inadequacy when public authorities are in charge of the public’s privacy and security. While developing better smart city data governance practices may be challenging, it is necessary.
Better data governance is vital. After all, 56% of the global population already lived in cities in 2022. Since experts agree the percentage of people living in urban areas will sharply increase in only a few decades, the time for action is now.
Tips for Smart Cities to Improve Data Governance
Smart city data governance must be ethical, responsible, and secure. Public authorities can only achieve this goal if they develop strategies to improve accountability, transparency, and privacy.
1. Establish Collection and Utilization Limitations
Establishing collection and utilization limitations prevents government overreach and impedes individual cases of misuse. Smart cities must align their practices with the value they intend to generate. In other words, their actions should always be in their citizens’ best interests.
2. Identify the Scope and Purpose
Public authorities should consider why they need to collect information. Identifying the value it brings to the city and stakeholders clarifies progression opportunities. They should also estimate how soon the data will be useful to establish realistic timeframes for their objectives.
3. Determine Data Ownership Standards
Who has the right to citizen-generated information? Can the public access it at any time? Local governments must define ownership standards before publicizing, sharing, or privatizing data sets. It’s a necessary step to facilitate trust and preserve privacy.
4. Establish Privileges and Policies
City council members must establish privileges and policies to govern data access and usage. This approach minimizes misuse. Additionally, it provides public authorities with legal and ethical standards to reference in the face of lawsuits, public concerns, and unforeseen events.
5. Anonymize Data Sets for Privacy
Anonymization protects citizens from privacy violations, excess scrutiny, and public embarrassment. Local governments should be careful to de-identify or redact any identifying information in shared or publicized data sets.
6. Engage in an Ongoing Open Discussion
Citizens have the right to know how local governments or private vendors use their data. Since nearly 40% of people are already happy to share their personal information, engaging in open discussion would foster transparency and trust. City council members should routinely use meetings, surveys, and public forums to source feedback.
7. Facilitate Collaboration and Data Sharing
Local government agencies, advisory committees, and neighboring cities should collaborate. This way, they eliminate data silos, ease the financial burden of information processing and gain unique insights into utilization opportunities.
8. Implement Storage Security Measures
Smart cities must ensure their actions comply with local and federal laws. Additionally, they must leverage audits, access privileges, and authentication mechanisms to enhance data storage security. Preventing breaches and leaks is vital to maintaining citizens’ trust.
Data Governance Improvements Are Vital
Success is only possible if data breaches, public backlash, and improper management don’t hinder progression. In other words, better data governance is a necessity. Smart cities must develop proven, modern strategies if they want to last.