Data and the City. How Can Public Data Infrastructures Change Lives in Urban Regions?

43 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2019

Date Written: February 2, 2017


The development of urban regions will significantly affect the lives of millions of people around the world. Urbanization poses new challenges including housing shortages, the growth of slums and urban decay, inadequate provision of infrastructure and public services, poverty and pollution. Data can play an important role in tackling these issues - enabling citizens and policy-makers to follow progress and take informed action.

Cities around the world publish a wide variety of data, reflecting the diversity and heterogeneity of the information systems used in local governance, policy-making and service delivery. This paper looks at the role of city data infrastructures in advancing progress around a range of societal issues - from tackling air pollution and corruption to the provision of green spaces and public services. It aims to address questions such as: What is the action repertoire available to civil society actors to open up local data and to enlist it into the service of tackling urgent issues in their cities? What can government officials do to make public data infrastructures more responsive to the interests and concerns of different civil society actors?

Instead of considering how technical and legal openness can enable the use of open data in urban regions, we wish to present the many ways in which civil society interacts with public data infrastructures, including creatively repurposing and participating in the making of city data data – and what these practices can teach us about how to increase public participation around city data initiatives.

The paper is based on six case studies looking at civil society participation around data infrastructures in cities around the world. It concludes with a set of recommendations for civil society and public institutions to make urban data infrastructures more responsive to the needs of civil society.

Keywords: Urban Governance, Open Data, Big Data, Data Infrastructures, Data Assemblage, Participatory Data Practices, Data Publics

Suggested Citation

Lämmerhirt, Danny and Gray, Jonathan, Data and the City. How Can Public Data Infrastructures Change Lives in Urban Regions? (February 2, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Danny Lämmerhirt (Contact Author)

University of Siegen ( email )

Hoelderlinstrasse 3
57068 Siegen, NRW 57068

Jonathan Gray

King's College London ( email )

London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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