Demoday #22: Data Commons Collective

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In the big tech-dominated era, data has been commercially exploited for so long that it is now hard to imagine that data sharing might also benefit the community. Yet that is what a collective of businesses, governments, social institutions and residents in Amsterdam aim to do. Sharing more data to better care for the city. On behalf of the Data Commons Collective, Lia Hsu (Strategic Advisor at Amsterdam Economic Board) asked the Amsterdam Smart City network for input and feedback on their Data Commons initiative on the last Demoday of 2023.

What is a (data) common?

Commons are natural resources that are accessible to everyone within a community. Water. Fertile soil. Clean air. Actually everything the earth has given us. We as humanity have increasingly begun to exploit these commons in our pursuit of power and profit maximisation. As a result, we risk exhausting them.

Data is a new, digital resource: a valuable commodity that can be used to improve products and services. Data can thus also be used for the common good. However there are two important differences between a common and a data common: data in commons never runs out, and data in commons is not tied to any geographical location or sociocultural groups.

Four principles for Data Commons

The Data Commons collective is currently working on different applied use cases to understand how data commons can help with concrete solutions to pressing societal problems in the areas of energy, green urban development, mobility, health and culture. Each data commons serves a different purpose and requires a different implementation, but there are four principles that are always the same:

  1. The data common is used to serve a public or community purpose
  2. The data common requires cooperation between different parties, such as individuals, companies or public institutions
  3. The data common is managed according to principles that are acceptable to users and that define who may access the data commons under what conditions, in what ways they may be used, for what purpose, what is meant by data misuse
  4. The data common is embedded to manage data quality, but also to monitor compliance with the principles and ensure that data misuse is also noticed and that an appropriate response (such as a reprimand, penalty or fine) follows.

The Data Commons Collective is now in the process of developing a framework, which provides a self-assessment tool to guide the formation of Data Commons initiatives by triggering consideration of relevant aspects for creating a data commons. It is a means of reflection, rather than prescription, to encourage sustainable and responsible data initiatives.

Energy Data Commons case and Value Workshop by Waag

After the introduction to the Data Commons Collective and Framework by Simone van der Burg (Waag) and Roos de Jong (Deloitte), the participants engaged in a value workshop led by Simone. The case we worked with: we’re dealing with a shortage of affordable and clean energy. Congestion issues are only expected to get worse, due to increased energy use by households en businesses. An energy Data Commons in neighbourhoods can have certain benefits. Such as preventing congestion issues, using clean energy sources more effectively, becoming self-sufficient as a neighbourhood and reducing costs. But under what circumstances would we want to share our energy data with our neighbours? What are the values that we find important when it comes to sharing our energy data?

Card Deck

Results: Which values are important when sharing our energy data?

In smaller groups, the participants discussed which values they found important for an energy data common using a value card deck from Waag. Some values that were mentioned were:

  • Trustworthiness: It is important to trust one another when sharing our energy data. It helps when we assume that everyone that is part of the common has the right intentions.
  • Fun: The energy Data Commons should be fun and positive! The participants discussed gamification and rewards as part of the common.
  • Knowledge: One of the goals of sharing data with each other is to gain more knowledge about energy consumption and saving.
  • Justice and solidarity: If everyone in the common feels safe and acknowledged, it will benefit the outcome. Everyone in the common should be treated equally.
  • Inclusion and Community-feeling: It is important that people feel involved in the project. The Data Commons should improve our lives, make it more sustainable but also progress our social relations.

During this Demoday, we got to know the Data Commons collective and experienced which values we find important when sharing our data with others. Amsterdam Economic Board will remain involved in the Data Commons Collective in a coordinating role and work on use cases to understand how data commons can work for society.

Would you like to know more about the Data Commons Collective or do you have any input for them? Please feel free to reach out to me via or leave a comment below.

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