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ESR5 The Governance and Management of Data in the Smart City

PhD project title

The Governance and Management of Data in the Smart City


Outline description, including interdisciplinary and international dimensions 

The contemporary city is exceptionally data rich, and the ‘smart city’ is uniquely placed to harvest this resource and put it to work within a wider governing project.  As citizens move about and interact in the city they leave a wealth of ‘data trails’. The development of a smart city approach is linked to a view that traditional cities are failing to harness and analyse these data flows. A technology that can couple the analytical capabilities of algorithms to this data deluge, and deploy machines to infer motivations and narratives through analysis of data patterns and correlations, is believed to present huge opportunities for new forms of governance in the city. The project will draw upon  expertise in public administration, new technologies as well as  law to critically examine this understanding and explore the explore the legal and governance issues involved.  Developing relationships within Belfast City Council (BCC) Smart Cities team (and embryonic connections with Smart Dublin and Toronto’s Sidewalk programme) the research will focus on the regulatory framework for data management, including the GDPR and more, and analyse the tensions between innovation and regulation within the unique  context of a rapidly developing smart city programme of Belfast City Council, including its Last Mile, Resilient City and Space for Smarter Government  initiatives.

In particular, and in line with BCC’s data task force objectives, the project will explore the legal and regulatory issues around the development and delivery of data infrastructure; the production, maintenance and provision of data from different stakeholders; the harmonization issues around the development of open standards to meet agreed criteria, formats, licences, and information policies; the maintenance of web resources and the development of a participation and feedback infrastructure; and the wider networking and support of the public officials, developers, companies and citizens who leverage the data infrastructure. This presents many challenging legal and regulatory issues.

This project links with BCC and then on to the Dublin Smart City initiative.  The international exemplars of smart cities worldwide will be a central element of the project, including the Toronto Sidewalk project, and the fellow will be encouraged to take part in various international  conference networks.

Key words/descriptors



Smart Cities, data governance, law and the GDPR, regulation and governance

Fit to CITI-GENS theme(s)

 This proposal engages directly with the focus on both technological change and evolving networked societies theme as well as the /ethical societies in the programme which it connects to Belfast City Council Smart City Framework

Name and discipline of secondary supervisor (from a complementary discipline)

First Supervisor:       Professor John Morison                                                       School: Law

Second Supervisor:  Dr Muiris MacCarthaigh                                              School: Politics and Public Adminisration

Third Supervisor (if relevant):    Dr Deepak Padmanabhan                      School: EEECS

Name of non-HEI partner(s)

Belfast City Council City Innovation Team and Place and Economy Department



Profile of the non-HEI partner and the nature of the relationship.    

Belfast City Council is engaged with QUB as one of the partners in the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD).  The PhD researcher will work occasionally within BCC and under the direction of officials there.