Published July 30, 2020 | Version v1
Conference paper Open

Accessing privately held data: Public/private sector relations in twelve European cities

  • 1. Joint Research Centre, European Commission


Access to data collected by the private sector could help local administrations to comply with their public-interest mission. Privately held data access by public bodies, however, is an emerging field with no established praxis yet. Its in-the-making status makes it a compelling subject for a research on the “politics of data”, since it allows looking at the power (un)balances between the companies holding data and the local administrations interested in it as well as citizens’ role. The contribution discusses the findings of a qualitative exploratory research that investigated the experiences and perspectives of local administrations regarding access to privately held personal data. Semi-structured interviews have been conducted with the innovation/data managers of twelve European local administrations. The interviews allowed contextualizing concrete experiences of data sharing in the discourses and viewpoints of the specialists working in this area, as well as the strategies they plan to put forward for facilitating access. The study illustrates how these cities’ managers experience four operational modes to access private data: data donorship, public procurement of data, data sharing partnerships and tender obligations. The results highlight new divides caused by the unequal possibilities to access private data, as cities with more experience and better reputation are in a favorable position both to establish partnerships and receive data at no cost. The findings also suggest that public managers would like to retain sovereignty of data, co-create instead of acquire data- driven solutions, and that are imagining collective forms of negotiation to enhance their access to private data.



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