Mara Balestrini. Beyond the transparency portal: citizen data and the right to contribute

Mara Balestrini.
Beyond the transparency portal: citizen data and the right to contribute

We assume that information only goes one way: from the Administration to the citizen. This assumption is not valid anymore. Citizens produce lots of data that could be used to leverage change. We should acknowledge the right of citizens to produce data, not only to receive data.

What can citizen-generated data do?

  • Improve or augment existing data. E.g. air quality. #MakingSense in Plaça del Sol in Barcelona.
  • Check the validity of public data. E.g. #MakingSense in Kosovo.
  • Create new data. E.g. #BristolApproach

How to do it? We need to plan ahead a strategy of participation, and begin with the things people care:

  • Identify the issue and the people that care: people directly interested in the issue, altruistic people that want to help, communities of practice of people that work in the field, and communities of interest of people that want things to happen in a given field.
  • Frame the issue. It is necessary to link the abstract (“mobility in the city”) with the concrete (“where can I park my bike”). The Administration usually cares about the abstract, while the citizen cares about specific issues.
  • Design a participatory project. It is crucial to avoid the creation of an elite of participation.
  • Deploy it.
  • Orchestrate it. Awareness raising activities so that more people join the project. Though not only by “voting”, but by contributing with what they can/know: helping to define, analysing, explaining, etc.
  • Assess and evaluate the outcome. And include the creation of an infrastructure of participation that remains after the process is over.

Case of the Plaça del Sol in Barcelona, to approach the problem of noise in the square. There are huge amounts of noise, which cannot be measured and, in fact, “no one is doing anything wrong”, but it is the aggregation of small noises that creates discomfort in the neighbourhood.

A project was created to measure noise by citizens, aggregate public open data and raise awareness on the issue by showing evidence of the problem. Once the problem was actually measured, citizen assemblies were made to collectively find a solution.

Some outcomes of the project:

  • Open and shared data.
  • Skills and capacity. The more complex the tools, the more excluding will be — unless we build capacity around them.
  • Co-created solutions.
  • New open technologies and knowledge.
  • New networks and social capital. New politics is about creating emerging communities out of a citizen issue.

Of course, not only should citizens have the right to generate data, but have ownership over these data, to have governance over data.

How about co-create license to share citizen data?

  • TRIEM is a study that uses collective intelligence mechanisms to co-design licenses to access and use our data.
  • DECODE is creating an open data commons.
  • Salus.coop is a citizen cooperative of health data for science.

The Administration should foster the creation of new infrastructures: legal infrastructures, that regulate citizen data, new institutions (such as the recognition the role of citizens in creating and sharing public data), etc.

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2018) “Mara Balestrini. Beyond the transparency portal: citizen data and the right to contribute” In ICTlogy, #181, October 2018. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=4636

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