Digital Commons Lab


DLC – Digital Commons Labis a laboratory that studies and helps to enable digital commons, by working with communities, government agencies and companies. Open data, open source, OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia are the main examples. The lab is an official node of the Open Data Institute in London since 2014 and collaborates with New York University on a joint project with the Governance Lab team. Members of our team are also actively involved in the Open Knowledge International Network. DCL develops research and analysis on the processes of production and use of digital commons, to make better digital policies by testing new approaches and improving methodologies informed by quali-quantitative techniques.

Contributions to Smart Cities and Communities

Open Data is at the core of the open government policies. It’s a means to an end, not an end in itself. DCL unit works in collaboration with multiple public agencies and has advised several administrations on the development and implementation of open government policies, with attention to the strategy of how to open up data (AgID, ISPRA, Ministero Beni Culturali e Turismo, Ministero Università Istruzione e Ricerca, Agenzia per lo Sviluppo e la Coesione Territoriale, Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Regione Emilia-Romagna, Regione Umbria, Regione Lazio, Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia, Regione Campania, Comune di Trento, etc.). This activity perfectly fits with the main goals of the Smart Community initiative.  In 2016, DCL joined  the OGRX – Open Governance Research Exchange, an international network that promotes research in the field of innovations in governance. Open data goes beyond the process of publishing data (transparency), but also involves the development of knowledge of a series of tools and techniques to better represent and visualize them (i.e. data visualization),  to analyze them (in particular, our expertise is in geospatial analysis). In this regard, we recognize the importance of the interdisciplinary dialogue, with experts and activists (civic hackers in primis), and/or entrepreneurs. DCL unit’s contribution lies in the interplay of these components and the continuous promotion of the analysis on the demand /supply and actual reuse of public data (i.e. assessment of data quality), For this purpose, the laboratory works closely with civic communities, involved in OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia, civic-oriented entrepreneurs and hackers, to better understand how to design and scale up solutions, through fruitful sessions of co-designing, to problems affecting our cities.

Contributions to Data Science

DCL’s research activity is focused on the socio-technical aspects affecting the production of data, on the exploration and analysis of the impact and reuse of data (for example, we are mapping and monitoring the use of public data for commercial purposes as well as social good). We apply a mixed-method approaches, where the qualitative investigation integrates with the quantitative study for a better validation. Rethinking and improving indicators helps us in shaping a better understanding of what is measurement and how to deal with it in the digital world.  We are interested in the application of civic technologies to solve civic and urban challenges and in the study of the social dynamics behind these practices.  The study of the use of data helps us to understand how to experiment viable solutions in the urban environment by taking into account the assets we already have got and the available data we can process for our purposes. Our labs have a think and do component. Sessions have involved participants interested in how to leverage on data more effectively, to engage communities, discuss with peers and tap on experts, with the idea of experimenting new ideas and solutions by using networks, on and off-line.

Key projects and results

  • Open Data 200 Italia – Research project that maps the users of open data in Italy, with a particular focus on companies, collects evidence and analyses the impact and creation of economic and social value starting from public data. This is a joint project, realised in partnership with the Govlab-NYU.
  • Open Data Watch Portal – Ongoing Project that develops metrics to analyse the quality of data published on government data portals.
  • Scuola di Tecnologie Civiche – Project in partnership with Top-IX and Rena.. The School is open to policymakers, innovators, public and private entrepreneurs. The formula has been already tested in three editions and involves a series of lectures and workshops. Some of the pillars around the School is built are: Engagement, Data Culture, Impact finance vs.  grantmaking.
  • FINODEX – was a Fiware accelerator that selected, funded and provided support services to 101 projects from SMEs & Web Entrepreneurs building upon the FIWARE technology and reusing Open Data. The accelerator finished their activities on August 2016 and it was co-funded by the European Commission through the 7th Framework Programme.

Head of Unit