Giving Compass' Take:

• Cities can harness the potential of data to offer services that help residents by including them in the decision-making process that affects their lives.

• How can local city stakeholders and community members work in tandem to ensure that technology is addressing neighborhood problems, not creating them?

• Read more about cities, data, and the impact on the future workforce. 

From building electricity trading platforms for households to digitising bus routes and 3D imaging of new green buildings, big data and technology can help transform cities into healthier, safer and more convenient places to live, urban experts say.

But work towards that goal is still at an early stage, and there are many open questions around how best to deliver “smart cities” that benefit all inhabitants, including the poor, the elderly and other communities at risk of being excluded.  A conference on the theme in Barcelona this month heard data can be both a friend and foe of urban dwellers, depending on how it is used and to what end.

“The real people on the streets sometimes feel like technology is something that is done to them, not necessarily with them or for them,” said Jason Whittet, associate director for solutions development and innovation at the New York-based 100 Resilient Cities network, which helps cities face up to modern-day pressures.

Urban areas are increasingly using data and the Internet of Things—which networks objects—to solve growing challenges of reducing traffic, managing waste, and supplying water and energy cleanly and more efficiently. But the users of those services—city residents—need to understand what is changing and why, as well as having a say in how smart technology is designed and applied, especially when it gathers their data to deliver an improved service.

Though many cities say they have “great data”, often it is not organised in a way that can be used to make a place more resilient and livable, said Elaine Trimble, director of urban development with Siemens.

Read the full article about what to do with data in smart cities from Thomas Reuters Foundation at Eco-Business