Data Ecosystems for Protecting European Citizens' Digital Rights
Calzada, I. and Almirall, E. (2020), Data Ecosystems for Protecting European Citizens' Digital Rights, Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, Vol. 14, No. 2. DOI: 10.1108/TG-03-2020-0047
46 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2020 Last revised: 4 May 2020
Date Written: March 23, 2020
This viewpoint paper aims to spark a debate by (i) presenting the need for developing data ecosystems in Europe that meet the social and public good while committing to democratic and ethical standards; (ii) suggesting a taxonomy of data infrastructures and institutions to support this need; (iii) using the case study of Barcelona as the flagship city trailblazing a critical policy agenda of smart cities to show the limitations and contradictions of the current state of affairs; and (iv), ultimately, proposing a preliminary roadmap for institutional and governance empowerment that could enable effective data ecosystems in Europe. This viewpoint paper draws on lessons learnt in previous publications available in the Sustainability (Calzada, 2018), Regions (Calzada and Cowie, 2017; Calzada, 2019), Zenodo (Calzada and Almirall, 2019), RSA Journal (Calzada, 2019), and IJIS (Calzada, 2020) journals, and ongoing and updated fieldwork about the Barcelona case study stemming from an intensive fieldwork action research that started in 2017. The methodology used in these publications was based on the mixed-method technique of triangulation via action research encompassing (i) in-depth interviews, (ii) direct participation in policy events, and (iii) desk research. The case study was identified as the most effective methodology. This viewpoint paper, drawing from lessons learnt from the Barcelona case study, elucidates on the need to establish pan-European data infrastructures and institutions — collectively data ecosystems — to protect citizens’ digital rights in European cities and regions. The paper reveals three main priorities proposing a preliminary roadmap for local and regional governments: (i) advocacy, suggesting the need for city and regional networks; (ii) governance, requiring guidance and applied, neutral, and non-partisan research in policy; and (iii) pan-European agencies, leading and mobilising data infrastructures and institutions at the European level. From the very beginning, this viewpoint paper acknowledges its ambition, and thus its limitations, and clarifies its attempt to provide just an overview rather than a deep research analysis. This viewpoint paper presents several research limitations and implications regarding the scope. The paper starts by presenting the need for data ecosystems, then structures this need through two taxonomies, all illustrated through the Barcelona case study, and finally, concludes with a roadmap consisting of three priorities. The paper employs previous published and ongoing fieldwork findings in Barcelona as a way to lead and thus encourage the proliferation of more cases (CCDR). This paper presents practical implications for local and regional authorities of the CCDR network. As such, the main three priorities of the preliminary roadmap could help those European cities and regions already part of the CCDR network to establish and build operational data ecosystems by establishing a comprehensive pan-European policy from the bottom-up that aligns with the timely policy developments advocated by the European Commission. This paper can inspire policy-makers by providing guidelines to better coordinate among a diverse set of cities and regions in Europe. In previous research, data ecosystems were not directly related to digital rights amidst the global digital geopolitical context and, more specifically, were not connected to the two taxonomies (on data infrastructures and institutions) that could be directly applied to a case study, like the one presented about Barcelona. Thus, this viewpoint paper shows novelty and originality by also opening up (based on previous fieldwork action research) a way to take strategic action to establish a pan-European strategy among cities and regions through three specific priorities. This paper can ultimately support practice and lead to new research and policy avenues.
Keywords: data ecosystems, digital rights, Europe, GDPR, smart cities, data infrastructures, data institutions, Barcelona, AI, Big Data
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