How Lyon is Testing the Self Data Concept to Empower Citizens

by Oct 24, 2018Society, Technology

Cedric Grignard

Cedric Grignard has worked dedicatedly on Smart City and related investments for the city of Lyon since 2014, a career enriched by an eclectic background that took him across 4 continents. In close relations with numerous, major innovation-driven stakeholders, he brings his 5-yr experience in tech, 10-yr experience in business development and 20-yr experience on international contexts to facilitate and accelerate foreign-born innovation finds productive ground in Lyon to develop.

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What if every single one of us could retrieve and have access back to the data he/she handed out when subscribing to a service on the web?

Wouldn’t trust be reinforced between citizens and internet-based service providers when these companies proactively offer automatic, transparent access back to data?

Not waiting for Black Mirror to shoot an episode, and aligned with the GDPR coming to effect on May 2018, the city of Lyon has taken part of an experiment launched in 2016 involving 2,700 citizens countrywide, mobilizing 300 people on its territory and over 15 public/private partners.

No need to comment on the tsunami of data that is already submerging our lives, I would rather focus on the personal data each of us send daily on the web, and on which we can truly leverage services thru the self-data concept.

As the GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) are everyday collecting free petabytes of data from their users with an ambiguous usage made of them, we tend to believe that self-data is truly a collective challenge and not solely an individual issue. Lyon decided to work on reducing the disequilibrium currently existing between citizens and corporates related to “shared” data.

In collaboration with the Fing, a French Think-Tank working on the Next Generation of Internet, the Tubà Living Lab – founded to foster innovation, incubating and developing new urban services around public/private data – co-designed and led the territorial implementation of the MesInfos* pilot project. MesInfos translates as MyData, with Martin Cahen as Leader for the Lyon Pilot project.


Personal Data as a Currency

Because the digital economy relies on collecting, producing, and managing data in a virtual context (no more need of physical interactions to work together), trust is crucial to make this ecosystem perform. The self-data – defined as the production, use and share of personal data by the user, under his control and for his own benefits – represents clearly a higher level of data value.

Because curated data have definitely become a currency, private data – characterized as establishing relations or transactions between persons/actors – gives the power back to the user when it is retrieved through a self-data mechanism.

Now, I can hear questions about the ownership of personal data. Let me be straight on that: the claim to retrieve ownership is a lost battle, and frankly not even worth fighting for, for two reasons:

  1. The new economy pushes usage before ownership (ride sharing, collaborative hospitality, etc.); the value of personal data is to have access and to be able to control but also enjoy services, not so much to decide who owns what.
  2. Companies will never give away data to customers if they were to lose complete access to it; thus, they simply would not hand out back personal data.

To be able to capture the self-data value, an entire ecosystem built on trust must be designed:  companies holding data and sharing them back, but also data platform actors providing PIMS (Personal Information Management Systems) developers to re-engineer the data to create new services, users who benefit from the services, and researchers to analyze the dynamics of this new paradigm… all these people enable the process to deliver added value to all.

If the benefits for the user are rather obvious (unparalleled access to personal data to better act and control by improving one’s self-knowledge, evaluating past decisions, making better and evidence-based choices, sharing information and collaborating with others), the added-value for the data holders such as corporates, administrations, institutions is mainly three-fold:

  1. Restoring trust and gaining loyalty from customers who retrieve and access their data in a systematic way
  2. Opening dialogue with customers to better understand their behaviors upon the usage they make of this collected data
  3. Designing premium customized services based upon data of different types

Of course, the recent implementation of the GDPR is a regulatory driver for companies doing business in Europe to be more transparent, which is what MesInfos does when giving access back to personal data. Let’s hope it will (re)-build trust between public and private entities and actors, and citizens which is one of the main goal of our project.



The Genesis

In 2016 and in full coordination with the French CNIL (National Commission on Informatics and Liberty), the MesInfos project got started after four years of deep studies, analyses run ‘behind the curtains’ by researchers, to implement and experiment the self-data in France through a unique pilot. The project’s vision is to eventually make self-data common place and practice, having citizens regain control on their personal data in cooperation with institutions and corporates.

MAIF, a major French insurance player owned solely by the subscribers, is the pioneer institution to put self-data at the center of its customer/member policy. It provided its subscribers with a personal cloud where their data are uploaded, ready for usage, and is at the core of the project, then joined by energy players such as EDF, Enedis and GrDF, but also telco Orange and other partners. All of them decided to share back the personal data to citizens, with a geographical focus on Lyon area as the pilot territory for a sample of 300 citizens to experiment the power of self-data, but also to pinpoint issues and ultimately assess scalability on benefits.

The Project

The Tubà Living Lab animated the process around the 15+ partners and the users in the following steps:

  1. Partners share with their clients (users) the personal data they have on them (private + generated by the services, e.g. energy consumption, etc.)
  2. Data is stored on personal cloud ‘Cozy’ for each and every pilot user
  3. New services are developed by web/app designers re-using the data stored on the Cozy clouds
  4. Each pilot user tests the new services for their own benefit
  5. Researchers study, analyze and assess closely the users’ feedback on the process, the platform, the services, etc.

The Tubà organized hackathons and other challenges to efficiently produce and design new services to feed the users with innovative solutions into the Cozy clouds. An example is the ‘Metro-Boulot[Work]-Dodo[Sleep]’ app that helps the users on their time management; another one, ‘Be Green’, is a sustainability-focused behavioral app.

The Impact

Today, MesInfos represents

  • 2,700 pilot users, enjoying
  • 25 data sets from
  • 15+ partnering organizations
  • re-engineered by a developer community incl. 5 schools, to provide
  • 3 partners’ apps and
  • 10+ beta-test apps, all available on
  • 1 personal cloud per user, all analyzed by
  • 6 researchers gathered in a multidisciplinary team, engineered by
  • 1 Think-Tank: Fing, piloting on
  • 1 territory, Lyon animated by
  • 1 Living Lab: the Tubà

Thru MesInfos, Lyon continues to anchor its pioneering position in the Open Data paradigm, initiated with a 100%-controlled open data platform to ensure, as a trusted third party, an equitable non-biased access to over 1,000 sets of verified reliable standardized data.

The Next Steps

This unique self-data project has already provided interesting findings about re-use of data, and the MesInfos setup scheme. As 90 percent of the users had expressed concerns about the collection and use of their personal data prior the start of MesInfos project, more than two thirds rated the personal cloud useful. Far more important, it is that users admitted 100 percent confirmed that transparency about personal data is not an option anymore.

Yet, some challenges are ahead, including assisting citizens about the reality of data, where more than 80 percent believe they own their data – when such a thing does not exist. If GDPR will push institutions to manage data in a more transparent way, the road is still long before all redistribute personal data to the users. Luckily, awareness among citizens is growing to challenge more and more companies with blurry behaviors.

And the trend is growing internationally. The MyData movement is spreading from places where it has roots, such as Lyon, and also Helsinki and some other Northern European cities, as local hubs of the European network MyData Global Network. The movement includes International events, presence in four continents, a universal self-data charter… The future will truly shift from personal to self-data.

Lyon has decided to continue the self-data experience with a Phase II: “Self Data Territorial” with the objective to design and deliver different scripts of self-data-based future outlooks addressing the usage, the related services, the challenges for the local authorities, etc. to eventually publish a guideline kit on city-based self-data experiment.

Because Lyon truly believes in equity, fairness and the citizens’ role in building the livable and loveable city, we decided to choose a path where the local authorities play the role of trusted third party to rule data management under its supervision, producing:

  • A model where the user controls 100 percent of its data and the way it develops its value, inevitably leading to increasing disparities among people
  • A model where the personal data are commons, jointly administered and managed, belonging to the community with no ownership rights

As such, a cross-sector team is working on the self-data paradigm set up in Lyon as an agile, human and balance city, where the data is useless if not for and powered by the citizens; but also with the citizens, hence the crucial involvement of the Tubà Living Lab, coordinating efforts between decision makers, policy makers, data holders and citizens.


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  1. Interesting blog. Still confused over the definition of Self-Data, other than it referring to personal data managed through better governance. Love the steps taken by Lyon, great move, yet is Self-Data revolutionary in a distinct way (other than getting corporate buy in on the governance)?

    • Thx Bas for your insight. Hope you good.

      As elements of reply: Self-Data is more than personal data better managed. It is a full capacity given back to the users to retrieve their personal data, and to use them in a controlled way, for the use they decide, for their own benefits.

      Beyond well-managed, the users are taking back power over (i) the data they ‘left’ on the web, but also (ii) the data that they generate (energy consumption, mobile phone bill, transportation patterns, banking dynamics, etc.)

      For referral, here is the definition from the Self Data charter: “the collection, use and sharing of personal data by and for individuals, under their complete control and designed to fulfil their own needs and aspirations”.

      Happy to contribute. Let’s share whenever you have time as you very clearly said: “other than getting corporate buy in”

      V. Best to you.

  2. Great experiment & will follow closely how Lyon evolves. Key is to get the decisions made by the city leaders this enforcing the use of citizens data. Then the use of this data will change the political discourse & increase citizen participation too.

    • Thanks Chris for your comment and contribution.Truly, the challenge of the governance and the commitment of local authorities are key.

      The Living Lab le Tubà, founded by the City Innovation Board, then transformed to public/private partnership with a mission of General Interest has been playing a fundamental role in Lyon to pilot this project on the territory on behalf of the Fing. As a result, it leads today (very happy to say) that the Lyon authorities decided to continue roll out the experiment even if the pilot test period is over.

      It includes indeed a matter of strong willingness for local administration to ensure citizens gain out of any “smart”, data-driven initiatives, like MesInfos.

      Happy to continue the conversation if interested. Let me know.
      Best to you, Cedric

  3. Merci pour cet article Cedric que je vais partager ;)
    En faisant des recherche les sharing cities, voir Lyon (dont je suis originaire m’a interpelé.)
    je fait partie de Ouishare Barcelona. On organise un LEX..(learning expedition) en novembre en paralèle de la smart city expo, sur le sujet de la sharing cities, empowering citizen..Bref si ça t’interesse n’hésite pas à m’écrire.


    • Thx a lot Emilie for your interest of your “native” city. Always very happy to share. I check the Lex and make it as part of my agenda as much as possible.
      Take good care and do ring when you are “back home” in Lyon for a visit – thrilled to share updates and news.

  4. I’m really intrigued by this project. Are there other resources you would recommend reviewing to learn more about the initiative? Any other published papers or findings on the work?

    • Hi Traci.
      Thx for your interest – and I take the “intrigued” in the positive way ;)
      As this is a pioneering project, the literature is not that abundant.
      If you have check the hyperlink in the post, you may have come up to clik on this one too – it brings elements in English about the overall project.
      There are more working document and presentations about MesInfos – but quite often in French as the project was initiated by the French think-tank Fing, and deployed in Lyon, Fr.
      Other sources of inspirations is the MyData initiative – mentioned in the post.
      I would understand this may not fulfill all your expectations of knowing more. Do not hesitate to come to me directly if want to take this further. I should then be able to connect you. Let me know.


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