Intelligent Use of Public Space: Recommendations from Report

In 2020 the Responsible Sensing Lab - together with TILT - organized two ethics & governance clinics for the project Intelligent Use of Public Space (Dutch abbreviation: IGOR). The governance clinic led to a comprehensive report with recommendations.

Measuring crowdedness in public space

In short, the IGOR project combines a variety of data resources in order to measure and display crowdedness in public space. Examples include implementing temporary one-way traffic, installing fences or deploying hosts or informing people about crowds so they could make their own choices to avoid crowds. The project is part of the Smart Mobility program of the City of Amsterdam. One of the activities of this program is learning lessons related to the design of the Mobility Center of the Future.

Ethical questions regarding the use of data sources

The goal of the clinic was to explore the ethical questions surrounding this project and how to embed reflection on these questions as a fundamental part of the project. Among other things, the following ethical questions arose during the clinic regarding the use of different data sources: 

1. Is it responsible to purchase data from a market player?

2. How do you deal with linking different data sources and new functionalities that may arise as a result?

By making ethical reflection part of the innovation projects we do at Smart Mobility, we not only improve the quality of concrete projects, but colleagues also become more skilled in recognizing and reflecting on ethical questions.”

— Yuki Tol, Project leader Innovation and R&D, City of Amsterdam

3 lessons learned from data clinics

The governance clinic consisted of three interviews and two worksessions and has led to a comprehensive report with recommendations. Below is a selection of the lessons learned:

1. Use both the existing legal and ethical frameworks to answer ethical questions. For example: if transparency and independence are compromised when using certain data purchased from a market party, then that data cannot be used.

2. In case of doubt or if the consideration is political then the decision should be scaled up to another level. 

3. Be wary of function creep and for every expansion of the system, consider whether it is a legitimate and responsible expansion and who should make that decision.

The lessons from the IGOR data governance clinic also form input for the design of the innovation process regarding the Mobility Center of the Future.

The full report (in Dutch) is available on

Data Druktemeter - Gemeente amsterdam x Responsible Sensing Lab