Big data can draw a portrait of the living public spaces in Bologna, Source: Bologna Municipality

Bologna and Barcelona get together for a project on big data

Bologna and Barcelona get together for a project on big data

Authorities in both cities believe that this can and should be used for the betterment of urban life

It is no longer enough to base decisions on the administrative data of municipal databases: it becomes necessary to access and connect different sources, starting from the principle of data generated by the community as a common good. This is the conclusion that more and more urban authorities have been reaching when searching for solutions on how to improve life in their environs.

Two cities in particular, Bologna and Barcelona, have decided to do something more about it and this is how the project ‘For a collaborative governance of Community data’ was developed together. Today, thanks to the use of modern big data processing technologies and machine learning, all that can be achieved if the various players in the field share a collaboration agreement and common rules, in compliance with the protection of individual rights.

This was inspired by Goal 11 of the UN 2030 Agenda

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that “Making cities and communities safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable" is one of its 17 Goals. It was also the inspiration behind this inter-municipal project which calls for the adoption of a collaborative data governance model, based on concrete case studies.

The management of the most relevant issues in the life of a city, from mobility to accessibility to security and inclusiveness, increasingly requires the possibility of accessing the data contained in the digital platforms of the various urban actors, both public and private. This is data that comes from public wifi, for example, or is collected from transport hubs, or obtained from short-term rental management platforms, and so on.

Combining it all together and over time can give a true portrait of the city and how it ‘lives’. For example, one of the questions that the initiative asks is: Can cities have their own breathing rhythm? This refers to the way people and groups criss-cross the urban territory on a daily basis, for example going downtown in the morning and returning to the peripheries in the evenings.

The above, although possibly common to many cities, can have its own particular rhythm and patterns depending on the locality.

How can this data impact policy?

The history of data “the breathing rhythm of the city” can contribute to the construction of a permanent, collaborative and participatory observatory from below, which has the purpose of generating unprecedented readings on the movements, habits and social dynamics of the community. This is how the impact, in terms of public policies, can materialize and become relevant for the institutions and for the quality of community life.

For example, in a certain undeveloped square in the evening and a lot of days the municipality can empty the bins and collect waste in the hours when this is really needed. This can also affect the scheduling of the opening hours of museums and libraries according to the habits encountered by users. Or we could understand the effectiveness of the Bologna shared mobility services, through the geolocation of shared media.

The issue of travelling in a “15-minute city” takes on fundamental importance in this light. In the period in which, due to the pandemic, we have witnessed the explosion of smart working, having a comfortable "living space" equipped with services just a few minutes from home can bring added value to the quality of individual and family life.

It can also contribute to enriching the relational networks of citizens, allowing public decision-makers to redesign spaces on the basis of needs. This is not only based on good intentions per se but as a means of practically designing sports spaces, green areas, points of cultural and social interest.



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