Future Cities - Catapult
london, los angeles, new york, Datavore
Making data the platform for civic innovation Making data the platform for civic innovation

In the second of our series on City Leaders turning insight to action, we present three key takeaways on “City as Datavore” from the Barcelona Smart Cities Expo CITIE working session.



Building upon the success of the CITIE framework, the CITIE-consortium (Nesta, The Future Cities Catapult and Accenture)  hosted a working session with a select group of global city leaders and policy experts at the Barcelona Smart Cities Expo.  Over 15 cities sent representatives to the session, where we explored two of the key policy roles in detail, City as Customer, and City as Datavore.

In our previous blog, we looked at how city leaders can open up procurement to attract start-ups and encourage innovation. In this blog we’ll look at a fundamental element of driving innovation in the digital age: data.

If you want to learn more about how 40 cities are catalyzing innovation, please find the diagnostic and report here.

Data is an increasingly valuable economic asset and an important raw material for civic and business innovation. Cities already produce a great deal of it, covering everything from school results to bus timetables and energy consumption. And we’ll see the range, volume and frequency of data expanding rapidly as cities install sensors into everything from streetlights to parking bays. Opening this data for others to experiment and innovate can lead to a new source of economic growth for a city. Big and Open Data is expected to improve European GDP by 1.9% by 2020.

We asked city leaders how they use data to optimise services and support innovation. Below are the key insights we gathered, along with some examples of approaches in action.


  1. Measure the success of open data by its outcomes

Publishing open data is just the first step in developing an open data policy. Cities must focus on outcomes and value creation. That means consuming their own data to develop new insights, maintaining and improving existing data, and pushing it out to the innovation ecosystem to use, co-creating and developing new products and services. Just as New York City’s BigApps challenge did when it asked developers, designers and entrepreneurs to create new tools for solving issues around affordable housing, zero waste, connected cities, and civic engagement.

Open data success should be measured by outcomes, not just inputs, ie has the publication of open data sets created value for citizens? In London for example, opening transport datasets led to the development of Citymapper. This app takes open transport data and turns it into insightful, real-time travel advice for users, and is so successful that it’s installed on over half the smartphones in London.


  1. Lead from the front

Cities should lead by being the first ‘customers’ to invest in the use of data sets. By doing so they can show others how to use them and demonstrate the insights available. This should be integral to how the city works, transcending politics. Using data effectively to revitalise internal operations will help make data a systemic element of  how the city works.

Milton Keynes, through its MK Smart programme, uses charging data (energy quality, time profiles, geographical distribution) to optimise the network of charging stations across public spaces. This reduces capital expenditure and optimises operational expenditure, with clear benefits for end-users and operators, including the city.


  1. Build an open data marketplace

The value of city’s open data stores will increase when combined with private data as well as data from other public departments. Cities should consider opening up their data stores to datasets from the private sector, other government departments as well as relevant regional and national datasets. Service level agreements (SLA) can be used to standardise how data is provided.

However, cities also need to ensure that data provision and exchange is a two-way process that offers demonstrable benefits to all parties by creating valuable new data and insights. Waze, a consumer traffic management app, shows this reciprocity in action. As well as enabling better journeys for drivers, Waze works with cities such as Los Angeles to draw on municipal traffic datasets and then feeds back data generated by users to the city so that it can, in turn, improve traffic management.

Data is at the heart of digital innovation. By opening up their valuable datasets to others, cities can drive the experimentation and collaboration that will ignite new solutions to familiar challenges and spur economic growth. An open approach to data will create new possibilities bounded only by the imagination, and the time to start is now.


Tell us how you your city is making data the platform for civic innovation?

Contact the CITIE team at info@citie.org