IDP2015 (III). Smart Cities (I)

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Communications session: Smart Cities (I)
Chairs: Álvaro Nicolás

Open smart cities: ¿whose are the data?
Julián Valero Torrijos, Juan Ramón Robles Albero

Whose are the data gathered by some smart cities initiatives? This question is especially relevant when many public services are managed by private firms. It’s interesting because these are data that are needed to provide the service, and thus private firms do need them. But, on the other hand, these data is generated by the user and thus likely to be ownership of the citizen. How do we solve this?

Our conclusion is that most data should be regulated as usual, protecting the citizen, etc. But. In some cases, especially when it deals about the know how of the private firm and how to improve the provision of the service, in some of these cases maybe data should remain property of the private firm, as it is part of their know how and own protocols and processes.

Smart mobility, data protection and social surveillance
Alessandro Mantelero

We are moving towards a pervasive data ecosystem. Big data and the Internet of Things are having an impact on individual and collective data protection, a need for balancing conflicts of interests, and have to move from a theoretical approach to an empirical approach, as the smart mobility case. We need to address open data and risk assessment, such as the factors that increase the risk of re-identification, and the different levels of access to mobility data. Examples: the London bike-sharing case or the user-centric approach adopted in the Piedmont case.

In the cases above, many data and at many levels is gathered, including personal information and travel information. Data protection is applied by design, both at the collection, storage and access and analysis of the datasets.

Conclusions: proportionality, risk-assessment, empower the citizen.

Urban governance and smart cities. The case of Barcelona
Mariona Tomàs Fornés

Since the end 0f 1980s we are facing a new concept of governance. Global governance is a process of coordination of actors, social groups, institutions to reach certain goals that have been debated and defined collectively. It implies a change in decision-making and policy-making. It includes different geographical scales, new public and private actors, etc. The hypothesis of this work is that the development of the smart city implies a shift towards the pro-growth model.

Goals for the case of the smarty city in Barcelona: based on efficiency, sustainability and a mix of several projects of many kinds put together under the umbrella of ‘smart cities’. Many of these projects already existed and the city council just rephrases them under this common umbrella.

The city council will transform the city into a urban lab so that the city (and the citizen) can be used as a lab by technological firms so that they can test initiatives, devices, etc.

How has the urban governance of Barcelona changed after their involvement in smart city projects? The participation of the private sector in financing urban projects has definitely increased, as has been the scheduling of big international events and culture as a development strategy. Citizen participation still is important, but somehow it seems that the usual spaces of participation have not been integrated with other initiatives and spaces more related to the smart city strategy. On the other hand, there is less strategic planning and less new institutions to lead new projects: private firms do not seem to be interested in strategic planning and new institutions have been replaced by ad hoc created public-private partnerships.

Barcelona is a typical case of conceiving the smart city within the principles of the entrepreneurial city: competitiveness, growth policies, use of public-private partnerships.

Pierre (1999) proposes different models of urban governance:

  • Managerial
  • Participative.
  • Pro-growth.
  • Redistributive.


11th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2015)

IDP2014 (X). Julián Valero: From digitalization to technological innovation: A juridical assessment of the modernization process of Public Administrations in the last decade

Notes from the 10th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: A decade of transformations, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 3-4 July 2014. More notes on this event: idp2014.

Chairs: Agustí Cerrillo, Professor, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).

Julián Valero. Professor of Administrative Law at the University of Murcia (Spain).
From digitalization to technological innovation: A juridical assessment of the modernization process of Public Administrations in the last decade

From digitization to technological innovation. The good thing about ICTs is especially the innovation they can bring with them into governments.

Is open government, open data, transparency a hype? Or is it a true believe in how things can be made different (and better)? It seems that the paradigm of accessing a document to be able to begin a procedure is over, that the government is already beyond that stage.

But many times it is not so: the government still creates laws (like the Spanish Law of Transparency) for the past, where the paradigm still is the standard procedure but digitized. With no improvement. We regulate access to documents, when citizens ask for access to data.

The theory is that we’re heading towards a smart government that provides services on demand. But it is a real practice only in very few cases.

The intensive use of technology has implied the appearance of new intermediaries between the administration and the citizen: technological intermediaries. And this appearance of new intermediaries often have an impact with legal issues. E.g. if I cannot access public information due to technological questions, who is liable for not respecting my right to information?

To be able to provide a 24×7 service, the administration now “lives in the cloud”… with all the strings attached to this decision: where are the citizen data, whose are those data, how to enforce the law or the service, etc.

And these problems get even worse when we speak about smart cities and big data.

We need technical norms as a guarantee of the juridical norms. We need technical knowledge to be able to design and enforce the best laws.

If we believe that ICTs can improve efficiency, we need to automate some procedures. Get rid of the human that is only clicking ‘next’ ‘next’ ‘next’ and adding no value. This is a major challenge for public law, but one that needs being addressed. And being addressed from the start, when we are designing the technological tools. Regulatory frameworks and technological deployments should evolve in parallel.

We have to tell content from container. What matters is not the container, but content; what matters is not the document, but data. And this content has to be accessed with the independence of the container: we need open linked data.


We have to reset our legal guaranties. To assert our rights. To simplify procedures… or just get rid of the concept of “administrative procedure”… or to create ad-hoc and on-time procedures.


Nacho Alamillo: the lobbies of the industry are setting up de facto standards (which often become de iure standards) but there are no representatives of the citizenry in the agoras where the lobbies meet. What should we do about that? Julián Valero: this is a very wicked issue. Yes, the citizens should participate in these debates, but we do not how. To regulate the participation in these agoras would not be enforceable or realistic. Maybe focusing on where the norm is applied (e.g. contracting some technologies) would be a better approach.


10th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2014)