The Future of Cities: Big Data and the Urban Economy
This opening keynote at the 12th PASCAL Observatory Conference "Connecting Cities and Universities at Strategic Frontiers" 7-9 Oct 2015, Catania, Sicily, focuses on new modes of governance and operations in cities being enabled by Big Data. Increasingly, data necessary to understand and address many complex challenges facing cities cannot be found in traditional survey programs or data systems. Big Data are massive volumes of heterogeneous data generated through transactional, operational, planning and social activities that are not specifically designed for research, or through the linkage of such data to purposefully designed data. The resultant complexities associated with the process of generation, access and use require special considerations for technology and methods of analysis, as well as regarding the scientific paradigm and political economy supporting enquiry.
The wide-ranging implications of these changes are discussed, highlighting the implications for learning, digital literacy, workforce development and consumer awareness and citizen involvement in information co-creation. Emerging models of city operations and digital entrepreneurship in cities are discussed. Given significant challenges due to issues of privacy and potential unintended consequences of pervasive connected information systems, the importance of responsible innovation and emergent ethics are paramount in making a transition to digital economy in cities.
Examples demonstrating these issues are given from ongoing work in the Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC), a consortium of 7 UK and US universities led by University of Glasgow and funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. The vision of the UBDC is sustainable, economically resilient and socially just cities requiring highly interdisciplinary research undertaken in partnership with local governments and businesses.
Professor Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah
Vonu is a Professor of Urban Studies and Affiliated Professor of the School of Engineering in the University of Glasgow and the Ch2M Hill/Halcrow Chair of Transport. She is the founding Director of the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s Urban Big Data Centre, a consortium of 7 UK and US universities.
Dr. Thakuriah’s research is focused on the intersection of transportation, society and technology with the view that sustainable and socially-just mobility in cities of the future will require planners to jointly consider social and technological challenges. She is interested in “smart” public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian active transportation, as well as in collaborative/shared transportation systems. Her research has considered the needs of a wide spectrum of travellers including low-wage workers, seniors, persons with disabilities and young adults.
Vonu is interested in the potential of technology to foster environmental, human, and economic sustainability. She is focusing on methods to mine vast amounts of real-time sensor and user-generated “Big Data”, as well as to understand the social, organizational and behavioural consequences of living in an increasingly ubiquitous information society. Of recent interest has been the role of Open Data, civic hacking, informal information networks and emerging digital "infomediaries" in cities. Her research on ICT related aspects of transportation has been funded by, among others, the US National Science Foundation and the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.
Prof. Thakuriah is the author of the book "Transportation and Information: Trends in Technology and Policy" published by Springer.
A version of this blog post was originally published on Pascal Observatory's website here.