Citizen generated data for policy, innovation and democratic participation

Special track chairs: Eleonore Fournier-Tombs, Mamello Thinyane and Serge Stinckwich (UNU Macau) and Gefion Thuermer, Elena Simperl (King’s College London) and Julian Vicens (Eurecat)

Hong Kong and Brussels regions

Data innovations are having a growing effect on the participation of citizens to both political and non-political issues of public concern around the world. Initiatives to engage citizens through data platforms and systems are having an impact on numerous sectors, such as science, public health, humanitarian interventions, activism, and much more. At the same time, countries are beginning to develop policies that affect these systems, covering issues such as cybersecurity, data protection and privacy, and artificial intelligence. As we have observed in this regulatory process globally, citizens are not always at the center of these policy processes, often competing with diverging national and corporate interests.

Citizen science is a way for citizens to engage with and learn about scientific processes, contribute to issues they care about, and effect change. Engagements commonly occur both in person – e.g. through environmental monitoring – or online. Crowdsourcing is a technique used both within citizen science and innovation, allowing either volunteers or paid crowd-workers to engage in activities such as data categorisation, often for later use in machine learning algorithms. Open source projects in many fields use similar approaches, including collaborative projects such as Open Street Maps or Wikipedia, where groups of users with specific interest contribute to achieve common goals. What all of these activities share is that citizens generate contribute, or process data.The motivation for this proposed track is therefore to allow researchers to highlight citizens uses of data innovations, with the hope of placing citizens at the center of future policy-making initiatives. The track will aim to discuss challenges and opportunities in developing data platforms, systems and policies for civic participation, including for participation in global development processes, democratic participation and inclusion of marginalised communities. The aim of this special track is to explore and showcase the full potential of citizen generate data in its many forms, for both policy and innovation. We will go into more depth on the specific challenges related to the generation, processing and use of citizen generated data for policy and innovation; connections between policy makers, innovators, and citizens to enable the use of such data; and case studies of both successful and unsuccessful connections.

Possible topics might include (but not be limited to):

  • Consultations and monitoring for regional or global development (such as the Sustainable Development Goals);
  • Civic participation in democratic governance and other decision-making processes;
  • Citizen-centric data governance frameworks (such as data trusts, data commons, and data collaboratives);
  • Citizen science or participatory research;
  • Citizen generated data for innovation;
  • Citizen perspectives on emerging data and technology policy challenges (such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, blockchain, etc.);
  • Tensions between grassroots data collection and monitoring and high-level engagement and policy;
  • Perspectives on the above in relation to gender, age, ethnicity, or migration.

This topic fits well within several Data for Policy standard tracks, especially Area 1: Data-driven Transformations in Policy and Governance. We believe that this Special Track could contribute to Area 1 by providing new perspective on citizen-centric data innovations, which could then feed into data policy and governance. This topic also relates to Area 2: Data Technologies and Analytics for Policy and Governance, in that it could provide insight into interesting citizen data sources. It also relates to Area 6: Data to Tackle Global Issues & Dynamic Societal Threats in that citizen-data engagements are at the heart of global issues, including global goal setting, climate change, public health and peace.