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Data Decade: Data Cities

Thu Jun 9, 2022
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As part of the Data Decade, we are further exploring this through 10 stories from different data perspectives. The second, Data Cities, examines the role of data in shaping our cities, and how it can help tackle the emerging challenges and opportunities

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By Volker Buscher, Arup’s Chief Data Officer; Wan Sie Lee, Director for Data-Driven Tech at Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority; and Josh D’Addario, Principal Consultant at the ODI


As part of the Data Decade, at the Open Data Institute (ODI), we are exploring how data surrounds and shapes our world through 10 stories from different data perspectives. The second, Data Cities, examines the role of data in shaping our cities over the last decade, and how it can help to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie in store.

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Emma Thwaites: Hello there, and welcome to Data Decade from the ODI. I’m Emma Thwaites and across this series, we are looking at the last 10 years of data and also the next decade ahead, and the transformational possibilities for data in the future. In this episode, though, we’re exploring Data Cities.

We’re currently witnessing increasing demands for housing, transport, and green spaces in an era of rapid urbanisation, an estimated 55% of the world’s population, or about 4.2 billion people, currently live in cities. And by 2050, around 70% of people will live in urban centres. City and regional governments have never been more important yet they’re often under enormous pressure to deliver services to residents whilst investing in infrastructure and long-term projects on stretched resources. So over the next 30 minutes, we’re going to explore the role of data in shaping our cities over the next decade and how it can help us to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie in store.

Welcome to Data Decade.

So thanks for listening. We’ve got a great panel joining us today to explore Data Cities. Joining me to talk through this fascinating topic are our three guests. Arup’s Chief Data Officer Volker Buscher; the ODI Senior Partnerships Manager, Josh D’Addario; and joining us down the line from Singapore, the Director of Trusted AI and Data at the Infocomm Media Development Authority in Singapore, Wan Sie Lee.

Welcome everybody. It’s great to have you with us. So Volker, I’m going to start with you. You’ve been working in this area, cities and data for a long time and on some really interesting projects at Arup, developing solutions.

What changes have you seen in the role of data in our urban centres over the past decade?

Volker Buscher: So the major change we’re seeing right now is that data is changing from an infrastructure to a traffic light on and off – understand how the transport system is operating – to something more strategic, where data becomes an asset that drives the economy towards innovation and growth.

And a good analogy is what we’ve been through with open banking, where the rethinking about the roll of data created not just a more efficient retail banking infrastructure, but it created a 43 billion industry where venture capital FinTech, large established retail banks are coming in and creating new services.

But also the consumer has seen a material change in the way they can bank, hat services are available, how they do online banking, how banks share data with each. So this is sort of a transformation, not just an introduction of a new technology – that will also play out in what we call the built and natural world. And cities are where a lot of that will take place.

So that’s where we see this sort of the biggest change: from data being attack and infrastructure piece to it, becoming a strategic intervention in the way you live and work and manage the cities and the built and natural world.

Emma Thwaites: I guess with open banking – I mean, people are probably very unaware that they are utilising open banking on a daily basis. I wonder, I don’t want you to make, to make you a hostage to fortune, but how do you see people reaping the tangible benefits of data use in our cities in the next 10 years and beyond?

Volker Buscher: So, this is not about grandiose projects. This is not about a robot that behaves in a city like a human. I think we are years away from that. And personally, we are actually less interested in that. But where we do see real opportunity is for example, the way we are planning housing developments, we can now use satellite and earth observation data to make much better decisions about where to develop or how to develop. The air quality issue that has plagued cities for a long time is now starting to be evidence driven with real insight about why pollution occurs, where it occurs.

So that’s important for people like us who design and help build or manage cities. But that’s also where the consumer and the citizen is really interested to understand how the city is performing, make it more transparent where air pollution occurs, or where jobs are being created. So we think that’s the application of data in, in making the city more effective, but also giving the consumer and the citizen more transparency about what’s happening.

And then if you do that at scale, what’s so interesting with open banking is you create a new economy. You have all sorts of startsup appearing now. They’re doing interesting work on internet of things or having sensors in lampposts or sorting out how we do parking or electrification of transportation.

So you also create an economic innovation and a growth model that comes through to really interesting new jobs that will play out in our cities. And it’s global. It’s not just here in London where I’m sitting. We work in 70 countries around the world and we see this trend playing out.

Emma Thwaites: One of the cities of course, that we see at the vanguard of this change, of this movement, is Singapore. And Wan Sie, you’ve driven Singapore’s approach to AI governance and have collaborated with governments around the world in fact, to further development of responsible AI. Singapore itself, regularly topped lists as the smartest city in the world. What are smart cities and why does Singapore lead the way.

Wan Sie Lee: What are smart cities and why is Singapore leading the way? Well, I think Singapore has been thinking about technology for a long time. You know, it’s really important. That’s why we have put together a plan to really bring the whole nation together.

This is Singapore’s Smart Nation Plan. This was launched sometime ago back in 2014, and essentially we have three pillars: digital government, digital economy, and digital society, where we want to think about harnessing technology to effect transformation in health, transport, urban living as well as governmental businesses.

So smart cities are really about how we use technology. In fact, these changes and my work actually is in data and data is really a critical enabler for smart nations and smart cities.

Emma Thwaites: And is there a specific example that you can give? I know your work particularly is in data. Could you give us an example of a practical application of data across Singapore to materially improve citizen’s lives?

Wan Sie Lee: Certainly, of course. Access to ensuring that data can really result in a wide variety of benefits across various sectors, right? Such as enabling new business opportunities, empowering consumers by provision of data, such as facilitating healthcare research and discovery, and then even tackling, you know, COVID-19 pandemic more recently.

So in the public sector, also, we use data to improve our evidence based policy making and delivery of public services. Now I’ll give a few examples. The first one really it’s about transport. So our transport agency uses data connected from buses and trains to inform commuters of exact arrival times as well as how crowded these buses and trains will be so that commuters can plan their routes better.

So sometimes instead of driving, I myself take the public transport because it’s really faster and cheaper, with access to information about planning and so on. Our housing agency also uses data about people movement, weather patterns, and so on to design neighbourhoods that are more sustainable and comfortable.

And I think maybe I’ll just draw also upon a focused example on open banking and share something that we are also doing here in Singapore. We used our national digital identity infrastructure, to allow citizens to give consent, to share government data about themselves such as income education, and so on to private sector service providers.

This, for example, then allows them to apply for say, from a bank, a credit card very quickly and easily by giving the access to these, these companies, the source of data can be trusted and can be accurate. And these companies can then more quickly issue, for example, the credit card and the banking services, almost immediately without having to do any checks.

So I can get a credit card in 10 minutes, if I meet the requirements for the credit card company. I mean, that’s again, a great connection to the next question that I’m going to come to you, Josh, from the ODI, because you’ve focused on how we should make our cities, not just smarter, but also ideally more open.

I wonder if you can tell us what you mean by open cities and how they might differ from smart cities and what specific benefits open cities bring to people.

Josh D’Addario: Yeah, absolutely. I mean as Volker and Wan Sie have clearly illustrated, cities are really expanding their use of data across the data spectrum. So including shared and open data. About everything from transport to the movement of people across the city, energy usage, crime infrastructure, you know, even the weather. So smart city technology is definitely helping all of this. But at the ODI, we really think that cities should initially focus on understanding the data that is already being collected, held and used across the city, by both the public and the private sectors.

So cities should encourage the sharing and use of this data to improve public services and, and deliver value to citizens and, and residents. And that could be, such as improving urban mobility much like Wan Sie was saying, to making transit more efficient and also sort of reducing emissions in that same time.

So this means that, you know, data between government departments and agencies should be shared more, shared better, and that continues to remain difficult even within high income and technologically advanced cities, as, as we know, kind of working here in London.

Emma Thwaites: It’s interesting isn’t it? This transactional nature of data, I was just going to come back to you Wan Sie and, and you slightly touched on this. Around the notion of people and their awareness of how much data is being collected about them and how that data is being used and how much agency they feel over that. And whether there’s a sense of that’s the price that you pay, if you like, to live in a city, which is more comfortable and more efficient.

I just wonder how that works in Singapore.

Wan Sie Lee: I think in Singapore, there is a level of trust that people have with making the data available to both the public and private sector organisations. I mean, we have the personal data protection act and sort of governs how data is used and, and protected by organisations, especially private sector organisations.

So people are generally comfortable. They know what the rules are and they can highlight if they’re concerned, if there are any concerns or if they  see any risks that are happening. So in future, people coming through Singapore airport, for example, will no longer need to show their passport to actually board the plane or even need to show a boarding pass.

And all this is done through the use of biometrics verification, as well as trusted data sharing between the immigration authority, the airport, and airlines. I think what’s really important is to make sure that it can contribute to safe and healthy travel, And to implement this I think it’s really about putting in putting the processes right, for data sharing, making sure all parties review the necessary protections and so on, and then sharing that everything is done in a secure and trusted way.

So I think all these measures allow people to feel a little bit more comfortable and also really they really allow public and private sector organisations to deliver much better services to individuals.

Emma Thwaites: Of course sharing data in one nation or across one region or in one city is slightly different to sharing data across nations or across regions. And I wonder what you see as being the future Volker. I’m going to bring this question to you, of sharing data across the world at a global scale.

Volker Buscher: Sharing is key. If I take an example with the Elizabeth Line that just opened here in London, actually our first, first project on that was 30 years ago where we had to analyse ground conditions and, you know, a pretty big drill that had to go underneath London to make some space for the Elizabeth Line that was done with calculators, broadly speaking, bit of software.

And then we started to use machine learning. When the drill actually went under London to see whether the ground was moving. Was it a risk to any of the buildings above the line? Was it affecting the conditions across the city? So at that point we had to share. This is not just something that one company does. You have to share across numerous companies. But then when the line goes live, ticket information, timetable has to be integrated in numerous applications where the travellers and visitors have sort of instant access now to when the next train leaves, how I can connect it and how I pay for it.

So none of this happens without sharing. And broadly in cities, there is still a tendency to do what we call bilateral agreements where select two stakeholders share with each other, or two companies share with each other, or one bus operator shares with another, but not at the scale that is required. And we are pretty certain, as we’ve seen in banking, that once people understand the importance and the criticality of what the ODI calls a data spectrum, to be clear when you’re open and when you share, you will start to see economies that also work more globally.

So the C40 network network of, I think about 70 global cities right now are sharing data on their climate targets, or sharing data on the progress towards cycling or electrification in this city. So you can see if you get it right it becomes efficient to scale on a project like the Elizabeth Lyme, but you can also go all the way up to cities globally, comparing how they’re doing in terms of some of the grand challenges like climate change.

But that’s not where we are today. So this is where work is needed to understand the concepts to differentiate between pooling and decentralising sharing. So there is some work to be done in our political leaders and technical expertise and understanding of – I think the understanding of citizens actually too, about why this is important.

Emma Thwaites: I’m going to come to each of the guests in a second about the positive benefits and risks attached to pooling data. But you mentioned also there Volker, decentralisation. I just wonder what is the difference between pooling and decentralisation of data?

Volker Buscher: So there are two ways to share. One is you put all your data into one place and then that place could be a government, most likely nowadays a company, sort of organises all the data and then makes it available to millions or in the case of the big platforms to billions of users. And then once you aggregate that data in that pool, you can also monetize it. You know, that’s why they’re very successful businesses by selling advertising or government by being able to analyse patterns or behaviours across housing, transport, and economic development.

So pooling does that well, but you run the risk that if you start to concentrate all the data in one place you might create monopolies, or you might create cost and friction in terms of how to access that pool.

Decentralisation assumes that the data remains with the originator. So the person who creates the data manages it, controls it, but is very clear about who else in the ecosystem or who else in the network might need it.

So we and Arup would say, ah, we’ve got some really good data here on weather forecast related to climate change. Who else needs that? How can I publish that? How can I make it discoverable for somebody else to use without having to put it into another company to pull. Those two models both have a really important role, but they are not the same.

And it’s quite important, I think for business and society to understand the difference.

Emma Thwaites: It’s interesting because the thing that’s coming up in my mind and that Wan Sie you mentioned previously actually is this issue of trust. And if you’re going to have data pooled or ultimately decentralised, then there has to be a level of trust in the data practices that come to play. I was just wondering in Singapore, and you did mention the regulatory framework that you have there, how you make sure that there is that relationship of trust between the users of the data and also the contributors of the data in the ecosystem.

Wan Sie Lee: So I think we have to address some of these recent concerns between the users and the contributors of the ecosystem. So there are various things that we can do. Yes, clearly I think on the regulatory fund, there’s something that we can try and put in place as basic level of  hygiene, right. To make sure that the data is properly protected. But we are also trying to address some of these recent concerns through different types of interventions, here at IMDA.

On the one hand we can put in place voluntary guidelines and templates for organisations to better understand what is required for them, what they want to share data, hat are some of the various components that they have to implement? I know these are explained through, trusted data sharing framework that we have published. We’ve also shared quite a lot of templates, such as our data sharing agreements; Volker mentioned. On the other end of the spectrum, as you mentioned, there’s legislation and we’ve revised our legislation to open up access to data through data portability, changes in the person data protection. Besides legislation and besides guidelines, I think there’s also infrastructure that we can put in place.

One of them, as an example, is the Azure Trade X. Uh, this is a neutral standard based platform, for the supply chain ecosystem to exchange data. So this is all, all these activities that we’re doing here, or the interventions, just in general, really trying to remove all the technical and legal barriers to data sharing. And really about building trust. And looking ahead, we’re exploring other mechanisms, such as privacy enhancing technologies and institutions like data trusts to facilitate more trusted data sharing.

Emma Thwaites: So Volker, loads of measures have been taken there in Singapore, presumably that the rest of the world can learn from. Are there any other instruments of trust that we should be thinking about in cities?

Volker Buscher: So I think the, the sort of technical and economic model or the ability to execute something that economically makes sense and technically can be delivered. That’s proven. So the big platforms handle billions of identities with huge amounts of data going in and forming their predictions. And the same with open banking and other industries now, and energy, for example, we see the decentralisation works.

So I think what we’re going to come down to actually, what has got the right value, and the right ethical framework attached to it. And how do you demonstrate that this is meaningful and acceptable to society and citizens at large. And you could see because at some point pooling could feel like a death star, you know, where everything is aggregated in and it is not just predict what you might do, but they start to influence what you do and what if that happens, not in retail, but in democratic voting. So that is a risk that needs to be understood. And I think the citizen needs to be informed, needs to be transparent.

Equally we’ve seen decentralisation initiatives that became very complicated and too complex, and they didn’t remove what we call cost and friction. They added cost and friction. So both have a place, but both, I think, need a degree of understanding the ethical implications and what it means for society and citizens at large.

Emma Thwaites: And Josh interesting that Volker should mention ethics there because obviously ODI is very concerned with data ethics and the ethics of practices around data. Where does the ODI sit on this issue of trust and what has recent work shown in this area?

Josh D’Addario: So when it comes down to data sharing, as it’s been described already: it’s all about trust. So how do you increase access to data held by individuals, by companies, by other organisations? In a trusted and, and trustworthy way. We know that the demand for this is out there.

We see data collectives that have people pooling data. We see citizen science where people are out there, you know, kind of collecting data for social purposes. So they’re really excited and invested in sharing this data. So to do this, in a trusted way and ethically, we need data access models that could be pooled or could be decentralised as Volker was saying, and more sort of sophisticated forms of this data sharing infrastructure to maintain trust while we’re increasing access to this data.

Now, some of the examples that we’ve seen that are, that are really interesting, could be around climate data trusts or institutions that are helping to steward climate data. So we’ve seen this with, you know, cycle hire services. Those can collect data on your typical cycle journeys through a city, and then relay that back to the city itself to help understand, how do we get people across the city better and reducing their emissions. How do we promote that behaviour? We also see this with sort of, you know, smart meter data, pedestrian footfall. All to make better local decisions regarding planning and decarbonisation.

And we’ve seen this citizen engagement. So the decode programme in Barcelona, for example, there was a pilot which included environmental sensors to record noise levels in pollution, and that allowed communities to share that data on their own terms and for their own purposes.

So when you build trust through ethical behaviour, equitable outcomes and proper engagement, that fear of sharing data is greatly reduced and more value could be created for more people living in a city from greater access to data.

Emma Thwaites: Excellent. It indicates a very positive future ahead. On that note, I’m actually going to ask all of you to do a little bit of crystal ball gazing. Now, this is my favourite question of the podcast. So I’m going to ask you all the same question and I’m going to start with you Volker and that is: What other trends do you see emerging in data and our cities? Not just the built environment, but the wider infrastructure within our cities over the next 10 years, and specifically how you think life might be different in our urban centres as a result of that.

Volker Buscher: So I think, um, consumer identity banking, retail, logistics, transportation, water, all these things will continue working with data at scale and doing all that good stuff that we talked about. But the biggest trend amongst all of that, we’ve been understanding of climate change related data. So if by 2030, we want to meet the COP targets, we need to create a degree of insight to make better choices and transparency for markets, consumers, and governments, to really make sure we will get where we need to be. That would also require consumers or citizens to look at their lifestyle or make choices in their behaviours. And we know that that is not just dependent on data, but without evidence and without feedback loops, it is harder to do.

So the growth of climate and carbon data, I think will reach a point where it is as big and as valuable as today, we see identity data or media related data. I might actually think it might get bigger because it is the defining challenge of society at large.

Emma Thwaites: Thank you. Wan Sie, how about you? How might life be different?

Wan Sie Lee: If I were to look ahead and think of something really different, perhaps it’s around decentralised personal data management, this is a value new concept. It reflects a paradigm shift from the current state of organisations controlling and managing consumer data, to individuals being in the driver’s seat of his or her data.

So we’ve decentralised personal data management so that individuals can control where their data is going to, and understand how and why organisations use their data. This also makes it easier for organisations to understand individuals as they will not only access data from a single source, but they can also access data from other perspectives about an individual.

I think at this point, I also want to highlight that there are new technologies that are coming to the fore. Many issues that require policymakers, technologies, and businesses to come together. And here we have an annual event called the Asia Tech Singapore, which allow us to discuss these issues and address some of these concerns around these intersections of technology, society and the digital economy. So we invite everybody to come together with us and have these conversations and see how it can look ahead and create a better future.

Volker Buscher: I mean, if I met Emma, I think this is so true. If you can get from people, just ticking a box with terms of references or terms of conditions that nobody ever reads, and then just gives the data away and the same is happening with the public realm or infrastructure now. If we can get to a point where there are meaningful agreements, that the individual consumer understands about what their data is and where it goes and how it gets used, that would be transformation, and I think it would be great news actually for society.

Emma Thwaites: Thank you both. And Josh, you get the last word.How about you? How do you think life’s going to be different in our cities?

Josh D’Addario: I’ll try to focus on the positive and the opportunities as well. Because I think that city data ecosystems represent a huge opportunity for addressing inequalities in society, whether that’s across sort of, uh, socioeconomic or racial or other demographic lines.

So I think with more trust, more data sharing, especially from the private sector now as they hold lots of data, we can really see these big social issues being tackled. City data sharing was really crucial in the fight against COVID. And I’m hoping that we have similar ambitions when it comes to climate justice.

Emma Thwaites: Josh. Thank you. Great way to end this edition of the podcast. So Josh, Volker and Wan Sie. Thank you very much.

So that’s all for this episode of Data Decade: looking at data cities, and a really fascinating insight into the cities of the future. If you want to find out more about anything you’ve heard in this episode, head over to theodi.org where we continue the conversation around the last 10 years of data, and also what the next decade has in store for us.

And if you’ve enjoyed the podcast, of course, please do subscribe for updates. I’m Emma Thwaites, and this has been Data Decade from the ODI.

In an era of rapid urbanisation, we are witnessing increasing demand for housing, transport and green spaces. Today, an estimated 55% of the world’s population, or about 4.2 billion people, live in cities. By 2050, around 70% of people will live in cities.

What can data tell us about the evolution of these burgeoning urban landscapes, and how can it help to tackle the emerging challenges and opportunities?

From infrastructure to strategy

The role of data in our cities has changed and is changing. We have long viewed data as infrastructure – the data assets and technologies that are as essential as the roads, railways and electricity we use every day. But it’s also becoming something more strategic – an asset that drives economy, supporting innovation and growth.

As demonstrated by open banking, when there is a data shift at sector level and at scale, it not only benefits consumers, but also springboards a whole new economy and growth model. In the case of cities, Internet of Things sensors, satellite observational data, and air quality data help enable better decisions, which in turn can drive new products and services, and therefore new jobs and opportunities.

Singapore regularly tops lists as the smartest city in the world, and the Smart Nation Plan, launched in 2014, paved the way for a future-focused digital economy and digital society, from health through to banking.

A critical change was allowing Singaporean citizens to consent to share government data about themselves – such as about income or education – with private sector service providers. There is a level of trust between citizens and the government about how and when data is made available to public and private organisations, and how it is used, and crucially, how it is protected. The tradeoff – between sharing data and efficient, seamless access to services, such as healthcare and banking – appears to be paying off in Singapore.

For example, in the future, people coming through Singapore Changi airport will no longer need to show their passport or boarding pass to board the plane. Instead, the necessary checks will be done through biometrics as well as trusted data sharing between the immigration authority, the airport and the airlines, contributing to better services and safe and healthy travel.

In Singapore, there is a level of trust that people have with making their data available to both public and private organisations. People are generally comfortable, they know what the rules are and they can highlight their concerns.

– Wan Sie Lee, Director for Data-Driven Tech, Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority

Smart and open

To fully realise the benefits of smart cities, they also need to be open cities. Cities are expanding their use of data across the data spectrum – from transport to the movement of people, energy, crime, and even weather. At the ODI, we believe that there should be focus on understanding and opening the existing data across public and private sectors, to improve public services and tackle environmental issues, such as reducing emissions. And this challenge remains even with high-income and technologically advanced cities.

An example of where and how data sharing is necessary is the newly launched Elizabeth line in London. The project required data sharing across numerous organisations to analyse ground conditions and risks to buildings, as well as the consumer requirements around ticket and timetable information.

This data sharing can also be done on a global scale to tackle pressing challenges like climate change. Take the C40 network – a network of nearly 100 global cities that are sharing data to help combat the climate crisis, for example data about their climate targets, or their progress to cycling electrification in their city.

Once people understand the importance and the criticality of what the ODI calls the data spectrum, you will start to see economies that also work more globally.

– Volker Buscher, Chief Data Officer, Arup

A critical point along the data sharing journey is the difference between ‘pooling’ and ‘decentralising’, concepts which aren’t fully understood and needs careful consideration by governments and citizens.

Pooling is aggregating the data in one place – a platform usually managed by a government or company who then organises that data for millions of users. While at first glance this seems sensible, there are risks around monopolies, misuse of data, accountability etc.

Decentralising data means that those who create the data continue to control and manage it, but in a format that means others in the ecosystem can find and use the data, following the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable).

These two models both have a very important role, but it’s important for business and society to understand that they’re not the same.

Trust

In all this, trust between data holders, data contributors and data users is paramount. There’s a whole spectrum of tools that can be used to develop trust across a data ecosystem – from hard assurances such as regulation and penalties; to soft assurances such as voluntary guidelines, templates, frameworks and transparency.

Ethics alongside regulation is critical. The ODI’s Data Ethics Canvas encourages data holders to think beyond traditional data protection laws and consider the broader social outcomes of projects, and how they could impact on people and human rights.

It’s important to find the right ethical frameworks, and to understand how to demonstrate ethical implications to society and citizens. For example with data pooling, the aggregated data not only can predict what you might do, but it can also influence it – which might be acceptable in cases like retail, but what about in democratic voting? On the other hand, some decentralisation initiatives are so complex that they have added cost and friction.

How to increase access to data in a trusted and trustworthy way is a central tenant to the work of the ODI.

The demand for trusted data sharing is clear, and interesting examples are emerging of data acess models that increase access to data while maininting trust – for example, services like Bike Citizens, Strava Metro and the Bike Data Project that share data about cycle journeys to guide city planning and reduce emissions; or the DeCode Barcelona pilot which recorded noise and pollution data.

When you build trust through ethical behaviour, equitable outcomes and proper engagement, the fear of sharing data is greatly reduced and more value could be created for people living in a city from greater access to data

– Josh D’Addario, Senior Partnerships Manager, ODI

10 year trends

As we look to the next ten years, other trends may emerge in data and the build environment, and life may change in our urban centers as a result.

One of the clearest trends will be the continuing importance of climate change-related data. If we want to meet COP targets by 2030, we’ll need to be able to generate insights from data to enable us to make better choices; and we’ll need to have transparency – for markets, consumers and governments – to have an accurate picture of where we are and our progress to where we need to be.

The growth of climate and carbon data will reach a point where it’s as big and as valuable as today we see identity data or media-related data. In fact, it might be bigger – it’s the defining challenge of society at large.

– Volker Buscher, Chief Data Officer, Arup

Beyond these existing challenges, new trends and technology may also emerge – for example, around decentralised personal data management. This is a fairly new concept, and represents a paradigm shift from organisations controlling consumer data, to individuals being in the driver’s seat. In this model, individuals control where data about them is going to, and understand how and why organisations use their data.

As we saw in the fight against Covid-19, city data ecosystems have huge potential to tackle society’s pressing challenges – from addressing racial, socio-economic and demographic inequalities, to helping us achieve our climate goals.

We look forward to that potential being realised as we enter the next decade.