Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Data, Governance & Communities

At the Data, Governance & Communities research unit, we aim to understand citizen- and organization-level opportunities and challenges presented by the increased use of data in the urban context along the development path to smart cities and communities.

Data can directly help improve public service planning and delivery, but also aid in addressing pressing issues such as climate change, increased urbanization, and social inequality. Nonetheless, the use of data in cities also produces significant challenges, including delineating what can be considered ethical use of data as a public entity as well as mitigating personal data protection risks. Moreover, flourishing smart cities and communities require the involvement of actors from all quadruple helix categories. It is our view that inclusive (data) governance systems and the potential to develop sustainable business models are preconditions to foster the necessary stakeholder trust.

Currently, our research efforts can be grouped into three tracks: (1) Digital transformation of the public sector, (2) Personal data (spaces) governance, and (3) Trust in data sharing.

  • The digital transformation of the public sector research track explores how increased use of data, aligned with public sector values, can transform public service provision to better serve the needs of citizens. At the citizen level, we examine issues such as privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs), data sharing norms, and meaningful consent. Additionally, we investigate how evidence-based decision-making support systems, including local digital twins (LDTs), can be appropriately governed as well as instrumentalized to facilitate wider citizen participation.
  • The second research track, personal data (spaces) governance, focuses on the impact of data-related regulation on various instances of data sovereignty, on the one hand, and the exploration of governance and business model issues in the realm of data spaces containing personal data, on the other hand. Furthermore, we have a specific interest in data providers seeing their pivotal role in ensuring the long-term viability of personal data spaces.
  • Last, the crosscutting research track on trust in data sharing examines topics of stakeholder trust related to various aspects of the exchange of data. Our focus is mostly on trust in data and technology (providers) as well as in (data) governance models.

Our mission is to advance the understanding of these selected issues at the intersection of data, cities and communities, to contribute to creating a more sustainable and equitable urban environment.