Texas cities looking at monetizing data to generate new revenue

It’s commonplace for city governments eager to serve constituents to face funding challenges. But the extraordinary challenges presented by a year-plus of pandemic are compelling cities to look for new revenue streams to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs.

The North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA), a consortium of municipalities, agencies, organizations, companies and academic institutions, is asking its members to evaluate ways in which they can monetize data and assets (land, buildings, lighting, roads, etc.) to generate revenue.

NTXIA members include Dallas, Plano, Arlington, Fort Worth and others.

Capturing revenue

The group says it’s looking for “ways for the governments to individually or regionally capture revenue for the resources, assets and efforts for the creation and use of government data.”

Of course, a great deal of that data is accessible by law.

Open data

“Texans have the right to see how their government is spending their tax dollars and exercising the powers they have granted it,” Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in the introduction of last year’s handbook for the Texas Public Information Act.

NTXIA says its member governments are “committed to open data rules but want to explore solutions at the regional level or that account for improvement or intelligence related to the data.”

The consortium acknowledges that charging citizens and businesses for government data is “likely to be controversial.”

Future data growth and complexity

There are also data complexities that will have to be worked out in coming years.

Andrew Collinge, co-founder and president of Advanced Digital Technologies, recently wrote that urban data is going to grow via AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (internet of things), as will the costs of processing and building databases.

“Although it is contentious to some, charging to cover costs for these activities, especially if they are attached to high value use cases, may become necessary for government to open up high value data at all,” Colinge wrote.

NTXIA is accepting submissions until July 16.