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Photo: Joe Sohm | Dreamstime.com

Texan cities explore data monetisation to raise revenue

03 June 2021

by Sarah Wray

Cities in North Texas are evaluating options to monetise their data and assets such as land, buildings, lighting and roads to generate new revenue.

The North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA), a regional consortium of municipalities, agencies, companies and academic institutions, has issued a call for solutions via govtech procurement platform Marketplace.city.

“A top priority for our membership is to focus on revenue-generating solutions and financial models that aid in economic recovery and propel transformative projects forward,” said Jennifer Sanders, Executive Director of NTXIA. “NTXIA members have committed to a regional approach because they know that residents’ lives don’t stop at municipal borders and solutions for mobility, digital connectivity, infrastructure resiliency, and others need to be regionally addressed to be effective and sustainable.”

NTXIA city members include Dallas, Arlington, Irving, Plano, Frisco and Garland.

New models

Proposals should be as adaptable as possible to help governments address shifts such as mobility changes, fleet electrification, circular economies and the digital divide. NTXIA says members are open to models with upfront costs but also want to explore privately funded, shared revenue options.

On data monetisation, NTXIA has requested: “Ways for the governments to individually or regionally capture revenue for the resources, assets and efforts for the creation and use of government data.”

“The governments remain committed to open data rules but want to explore solutions at the regional level or that account for improvement or intelligence related to the data,” the consortium says.

The call for solutions also seeks technologies or processes to capture lost revenue and options to “more fairly and equitably” implement charges such as kerb pricing schemes.

Complexity

The idea of potentially charging for government data could be controversial for some and, in the case of open data, might seem counter-intuitive. There are also complexities around issues such as data ownership, value, re-use and more.

Andrew Collinge, Advisor, Smart Dubai, and former Director for Intelligence and Analysis, Greater London Authority, recently wrote on Cities Today that: “As urban data gets bigger and more unstructured through AI and IoT, costs associated with pre-processing, building of datasets and the infrastructure to enable sharing all increase.

“Although it is contentious to some, charging to cover costs for these activities, especially if they are attached to high value use cases, may become necessary for government to open up high value data at all.”

To encourage innovation, cities could, for example, allow free access to data for research and development before switching to a commercial access model when companies launch products. Sector categorisation and planned end use could inform pricing, Collinge said.

Through the process with Marketplace.city, NTXIA hopes to initially better understand the vendor landscape to evaluate available options.

William Zielinski, Chief Information Officer, City of Dallas, commented: “We know that the government needs to continue to evolve to meet resident and business needs. Balancing a commitment to innovation and agile development with prudent stewardship of funds requires a well-informed approach.

“2020 brought a renewed urgency to embracing new processes and structures and continuing this momentum will realise economic growth and access to services that help both Dallas residents and our region prosper.”

Submissions are open until July 16.

Image: Joe Sohm | Dreamstime.com

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