What is it about?

This paper aims to spark a debate by presenting the need for developing data ecosystems in Europe that meet the social and public good while committing to democratic and ethical standards; suggesting a taxonomy of data infrastructures and institutions to support this need; 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 ultimately, proposing a preliminary roadmap for institutional and governance empowerment that could enable effective data ecosystems in Europe.

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Why is it important?

This paper, drawing from lessons learned 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, namely, advocacy, suggesting the need for city and regional networks; governance, requiring guidance and applied, neutral and non-partisan research in policy; and pan-European agencies, leading and mobilising data infrastructures and institutions at the European level.


The leading data governance models worldwide from China and the USA and the advent of Big Data are dramatically reshaping citizens’ relationship with data. Against this backdrop and directly influenced by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe has, perhaps, for the first time, spoken with its own voice by blending data and smart city research and policy formulations. Inquiries and emerging insights into the potential urban experiments on data ecosystems, consisting of data infrastructures and institutions operating in European cities and regions, become increasingly crucial. Thus, the main social implications are for those multi-stakeholder policy schemes already operating in European cities and regions.

Igor Calzada
University of Oxford

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This page is a summary of: Data ecosystems for protecting European citizens’ digital rights, Transforming Government People Process and Policy, April 2020, Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/tg-03-2020-0047.
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