Data protection in smart cities: An economic and managerial analysis

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis

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Public administrations at all levels of government are confronted with challenges related to growing urban populations and shifting citizen preferences. Especially at the local level this tension is acute, because these challenges are coupled with an expanding number of responsibilities in a context of budget austerity. To increase budget efficiency, local authorities are increasingly implementing smart city services (SCSs). These SCSs employ information technology to render public service provision more efficient as well as more effective. A smart city, which can be considered the compound of all SCSs in a particular urban setting, is thus developing. Of course, administering these SCSs often entails the collection and processing of large personal datasets, this holds for managing a smart city a fortiori. The general data protection regulation (GDPR), which was introduced to safeguard the fundamental right to data protection in the rapidly evolving digital economy, is a crucial legal instrument in this context. Adding to a body of academic literature shaped by technologists and legal scholars, this dissertation studies the topic of data protection in smart cities from an economic and managerial perspective. The collection of articles constituting the various chapters of this dissertation comprises traditional scientific research as well as more practical work, following both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The primary focus of the dissertation is on the economic as well as managerial aspects of the data protection impact assessment (DPIA) and on the impact of GDPR on competition in the SCS market. Key takeaways include: i) improving data protection literacy of the SCS stakeholder community is an important success factor for sustainable smart city development, ii) the DPIA can only be a lever for smart city data protection when implemented through a stakeholder-inclusive approach, and iii) GDPR likely requires pro-competitive flanking measures to be truly effective.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Dooms, Michael, Supervisor
  • Buts, Caroline, Supervisor
Award date9 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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