The pilots which will help citizens regain control over their personal data

Priya Samuel
Wednesday 16th August 2017

Today, there’s no shortage of online services that offer to make your life easier—providing you’re willing to trust them with your personal data. That’s not a deal everyone is willing to make. What if you could access life-enhancing digital services while maintaining control of your information? The DECODE project was created to tackle this challenge.

DECODE aims to empower citizens, enabling them to own their online identity and share data in independently, securely and in a trusted way. And now four new pilot schemes are underway in two major European cities, Amsterdam and Barcelona.

This summer we have been running inception exercises in Barcelona and Amsterdam to design the pilots that will be used to showcase and test a variety of potential use cases for DECODE. We also wanted to explore the challenges of dealing with two different types of data: those belonging to the individual citizens (private) and those that belong to the public (open).

The four pilot candidates selected for DECODE are:

  • iDigital / BCNow Platform in collaboration with Decidim Barcelona and the Barcelona City Council

  • IoT Pilot with Making Sense in Barcelona

  • Holiday Rental Register / FairBnB in Amsterdam

  • Gebiedonline (Neighbourhood Online) in Amsterdam

The DECODE Pilots

iDigital / BCNow (Barcelona)

The digital era has the potential to make huge societal changes—for instance, through fostering participatory democracy, where people feel their voices are heard and where policy decisions take citizens’ views into account.

Our first pilot in Barcelona will use an existing digital platform on Decidim Barcelona to test DECODE’s verification capabilities, in a scheme that will encourage citizen participation. This platform lets citizens share information about new policy proposals, combining public, open and citizen-generated data. The pilot will augment the resources and tools citizens can use to participate, share, engage and promote initiatives—in a secure, anonymous, reliable and auditable manner. As a part of this pilot citizen generated data will be aggregated and displayed in a BCNow dashboard which fosters the idea of ‘Data of the commons’ i.e. data that is donated to the public by individual citizens, such as, noise levels in a community, or healthcare data. Data from the Barcelona City Council Infrastructure (Sentilo, IRIS, CityOS) will be available on the dashboard as part of the Data Commons policy in Barcelona.

This project, which builds on the previous EU project, D-CENT, supports the creation of an open, transparent and collaborative city. The pilot will demonstrate DECODE’s ability to increase data sharing transparency. It also gives citizens the opportunity to get actively involved in local issues, while remaining in control of how their responses are shared. It will engage them through combining data donation, data commons and public data.

Iot Pilot Involving #CitizenSense (Barcelona)

Noise pollution can blight the lives of those affected. But it’s an insidious problem that many local authorities struggle to deal with: often, nuisance noise happens outside working hours, so getting council officials to record it is both difficult and costly; fixed monitors can help, but only if they’re in the right place at the right time.

This pilot will enable local residents to capture and share noise data, providing an accurate record of their experiences—and to share that data while maintaining control over who can see that information. By taking a citizen-led approach, residents will be able to collect accurate data on any noise problems in any location. It will help the council identify problem areas and identify suitable resolutions.

Participating residents will be given noise sensors that are placed in the neighbourhood. A community is built around training and supporting participants helping them setup and use the sensors to gather noise data. The data gathered by the sensors will be used to empower the community to make better decisions on city and council level planning. The pilot tackles the technical challenges of collating and storing a stream of citizen-sensed data, while also enabling those citizens to control what information is shared. It builds on a local project, Making Sense, which was established in 2016 and has been co-funded by the European Commision.

Holiday Rental Register / FairBnB (Amsterdam)

Increasingly, tourism is seen in many parts of the world in a negative light. Accommodation-sharing platforms, such as Airbnb and Wimdu, have brought often-rowdy visitors into residential areas, upsetting the locals; and the uncontrolled influx of tourists can strain local authority resources.

This pilot aims to make it easier for accommodation providers to rent out their properties, while abiding by local laws and maintaining control over who can see their occupancy data. DECODE will provide statistics and regulatory information without compromising participants’ privacy. The pilot involves collaboration with the Amsterdam Municipality and the FairBnB platform — which is intended to provide a sustainable solution for short-let accommodation and ploughs any profits into local initiatives.

Gebiedonline (Neighbourhood Online) (Amsterdam)

Gebiedonline is a pre-existing digital platform that enables local people, groups and organizations to view events taking place in their neighbourhood, share news, exchange and borrow products and services, and to meet people.

This platform has demonstrated its capabilities and been a success with residents in a number of cities and neighbourhoods. Now Amsterdam City Council is keen to spread this to other locations across the city and leverage the platform to increase involvement with policy and decision making. DECODE will provide granular privacy controls, so that residents can decide what information they share.

Making a considered choice

Given the profile of this project, it was essential we chose our pilots carefully. We wanted to be able to demonstrate the depth and breadth of DECODE’s capabilities.

In making that choice we decided that the successful pilots must:

  • Test a wide range of DECODE functionality—such as personal data ownership, decentralized IoT access, or privacy protection

  • Ensure a high level of engagement with community groups, to increase the likelihood that the pilots will deliver a long-term impact

  • Demonstrate functionality that meets specific requirements in the host city—such as political or geographical issues or features enabling the city infrastructure.

We’ll be providing more detail in future blogs about how ThoughtWorks used Lean Inceptions for the pilot candidates to determine the scope of each pilot and how it can showcase DECODE as a privacy platform. Stay tuned for more!