This article was adapted from our latest book, "Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons." Download your free pdf copy today.

Data about land is a highly coveted resource in most cities. Indeed, knowing the characteristics of a given lot, its value, its ownership, and its risk exposure provides strategic information for urban planners, investors, and citizens. Too often, this data is managed as a bounty by local public administrators who restrict access. This certainly hinders transparency and generally the sharing of information, even among local government agencies themselves. Preceding national policy (2011), however, the city of Rotterdam has elected to explore the application of open data principles to land policy. Over 500 geospatial datasets are open. Some are open by national law, such as large scale topography and building information, but many additional datasets have been opened by the forward-looking local administration, including aerial photos, 3D city models, underground infrastructure such as cables and pipelines, and more. This policy is rooted in the understanding that open data enables collaboration across agencies in the city. This is seen as instrumental to achieving a municipal vision of becoming a smart and resilient city ready for the next economy.

The policy, in a nutshell:

  • All datasets, except geospatial ones, are available on one single platform for open data
  • A systematic review of datasets is undertaken before they are uploaded to the Open Data Store. Aspects such as privacy, data formats, and more are considered.
  • A public-private partnership is being created to improve the Open Data Store of Rotterdam.
  • The impact of the policy is not yet measured, which could be addressed by the public-private partnership

View the full policy here (Dutch).

 Activating the Urban Commons

This piece was written by Adrien Labaeye, based on materials provided by Rob Poll-van Dasselaar and Joris Goos (city of Rotterdam).

Header image by Jurriaan Snikkers on Unsplash

Adrien Labaeye


Adrien Labaeye

Adrien is an action researcher working from Berlin on commoning at the intersection of the urban and digital spaces. His research looks at the role of collaborative mapping in

Things I share: Ideas, research, mapping skills, working space, flat, board games.