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The United Nations forecasts that by 2050 cities alone will account for 75% of the 10 billion inhabitants of our planet. Megacities and medium-sized cities will experience the strongest population growth. Europe will see its urbanisation rate climb to 83.7% and Asia is forecast to host more than half of the world's urban population.

By Nicolas Cambolin, Global Director Data Intelligence at TALAN

This places great challenges on cities of all sizes, such as low-carbon transformation, housing supply, multimodal mobility, health, food, energy management, security, and inclusion. Real-time information management will represent an additional challenge to drive the concept of the "Smart City."

What data do cities currently use?

Cities are already using data to manage security, education, youth services, social services, sports, housing, green spaces, sustainability resources, energy, development and cleanliness. As well as using data to manage services, they also use data relating to residents, land registries and building frameworks. Technology continues to evolve and develop and connected devices like CCTV and motion sensors mean that data is available from multiple sources. A small portion of this data is open to the outside world as part of "open data" initiatives.

Cities, therefore, have a wide variety of data, which continues to rapidly grow and expand. Finding ways to utilize this data without compromising on security will help to face the challenges that lie ahead.

What are the challenges for cities and local authorities regarding data valorization?  

Through our work with our international clients, we have identified the following key considerations:

Defining the strategy and identifying high-value use cases – cities have created Chief Data Officer (CDO) roles. The first CDO of the city of London, Theo Blackwell, was appointed in August 2017. Their priorities are generally related to low-carbon transformation (energy efficiency of buildings), process digitisation, mobility, urban development, energy management, or waste management.

Deploying modern Data Intelligence solutions - many cities still do not have modern data platforms capable of collecting, processing, and valorizing data from new and heterogeneous sources. In addition, they systematically face the question of data sovereignty and the cloud. This remains a barrier to the deployment of such solutions.

Implementing data governance and culture change - cross-functional data management forces cities to think less in silos and more on the logic of sharing digital assets. Therefore, it is necessary to find common semantics for these objects. Any data strategy must rely on the emergence of robust and sustainable data governance. This remains an important issue and a subject to be addressed because it implies defining clear roles and responsibilities regarding the management of the life cycle of major data domains. A recent 1 national French study showed that 65% of local authorities did not have data governance.

The controlled integration of artificial intelligence - the use of artificial intelligence is still largely experimental and often limited for large communities. The application areas are varied, such as optimising parking management, managing or counting flows (e.g. public transport users), and waste sorting through image processing. Recent developments in generative AI raise the question of using these technologies while also controlling the ethical factor.

Compliance with regulatory framework and data protection - cities face several issues in this area. In terms of regulations, compliance with the GDPR (or nLPD in Switzerland) has significantly improved, and according to the aforementioned study, 89% of metropolises already consider themselves compliant. Regarding data protection, the issue is more problematic, and numerous attacks have occurred against city IT infrastructures (e.g. Lille, Rolle, Antwerp, etc.), sometimes resulting in the disclosure of personal data or withholding key data to block city services, coupled with a ransom demand. Communities are investing in technological protection, but stakeholder awareness of best practice is key.

Digital sobriety - cities' climate plans generally aim for carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2050 (e.g. Brussels, Paris, London, Geneva, Lausanne, etc.). Increased data management can also grow a city’s carbon footprint. Therefore, computing resources should be used effectively to tackle digital sobriety. This issue goes beyond data as it affects all systems managed by a city. Initiatives in this area are recent and therefore not well advanced for the implementation of more frugal code, optimal data storage to avoid redundancies or unnecessary transfers, and control of the quantity or origin of energy used to operate these systems.

Therefore, cities and communities must accelerate the advanced management of their informational heritage as it represents a major lever to help them achieve the colossal transformations they are implementing to address current and future challenges. Beyond the technical aspects, this requires a profound change in mindset to consider data as a critical asset to be maximized.

"Les collectivités territoriales et la donnée" Observatoire dataPublica (2022)

Contact persons:

Nicolas CAMBOLIN - Partner, Global Director Data Intelligence

Nicolas DOUSSINET - Partner, Data Intelligence FR

Amaury LANGUILLAT - Director, Data Intelligence CH

James HIGGINS - Partner / Low Carbon

Read again the article (written in french) about the Smart City by clicking this link :Smart City, la ville de demain devra être durable et désirable