Public data commons

Earlier this year, Open Future published their views concerning a public data commons and presented it as a public-interest framework for B2G (Business to Government) data sharing in the European Data Act. It is quite a long read and might seem somewhat incongruous to a blog about fab cities, but it’s an important issue well covered here. Important because, regardless of which visions or ideals one promotes for cities (and society more broadly) everything is more and more digital. What’s digital produces data. Data is easy enough to collect and can be assembled as insights and knowledge. Who controls it matters. A lot.

As things stand, “we face a spiral movement that sucks value away from the public sphere and into the private sector. This very much resembles a “one-sided commons” where data is free to be captured and exploited by private actors but no obligation exists to contribute back.” In other words, private entities are grabbing freely available data left and right and making it their own.

The framework proposes three connected objectives.

There are three connected objectives that must be achieved through a B2G data sharing framework. Firstly, access to data and the capacity to make use of it needs to be ensured for a broader range of actors. Secondly, exclusive corporate control over data needs to be reduced. And thirdly, the information power of the state and its generative capacity should be strengthened.

This kind of “data sharing for public good” has been presented for over a decade and argues that “privately-owned big data should be used for the public interest.” Public data should be seen as a commons and controlled by public interests, not private entities.

The Open Futures document looks at how data asymmetries favour the private sector, how to solve the public sector value gap, how instances might go about building a public data commons, and goes into some detail on the European Data Act. Lots of important issues to grasp and ponder, but for our purpose here, clickthrough and read the first more general part to get a necessary overview of this issue.

Image: Guerrillabuzz on Unsplash.