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The New Hanse

The New Hanse is a story about democratic and green innovation in cities

A vision for democratic innovation and green cities

Cities are uniquely positioned to address the challenges of climate change and can lead the way towards an ecological transition with social cohesion.

Local administrations have the ability, agility and proximity to rapidly activate transformations – which can be put at the service of citizens and tackle the city’s net zero goals, such as drastic reduction of C02 emissions and sustainable mobility. 

Data plays an important role in this process and should be seen as a common good, a public infrastructure that can be governed in a democratic way and can be mobilized for the public interest.

Hamburg is a city with clearly defined digital policy objectives and a progressive government, therefore offering ideal conditions to demonstrate the potential of data-driven yet sustainable digital transformation. 

The New Hanse, a collaboration with the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, aims to define a path towards a green and digital city based around data sovereignty and citizens’ participation – a sustainable model that can be scaled and replicated across Europe.

The New Hanse project is a citizen-centered initiative, based on the premise that data sovereignty and civic engagement are at the heart of local digital transformation.

The project is led by one of Europe’s leaders in the field of digital democracy, Francesca Bria, who is the former CTO of the City of Barcelona and currently the President of the Italian Innovation Fund. 

The New Hanse draws on the outcomes of Bria’s Europe-wide Decode project and builds on the extensive experiences of Hamburg’s government and its Department for IT and Digital Strategy of the Senate Chancellery.

On behalf of the City of Hamburg, the project will be under the guidance of State Secretary Jan Pörksen and Hamburg’s Chief Digital Officer Christian Pfromm.

The project’s structure

The New Hanse project is built around three overall conceptual pillars:

- Experiments for net zero 

- Developing data commons and data sharing governance models

- Encouraging citizens participation and building an active ecosystem of collaborators 


It is structured in two main work streams:

- The Urban Data Challenge Hamburg

- The high-level Data Commons Working Group

Net Zero carbon strategies: Europe's priority

According to the UN, cities will consume 70% of global energy, 80% of food by 2025 and emit 75% of pollutants and greenhouse gases, occupying only 3% of the planet's surface. The challenge is: How can we reduce the impact on the environment? 

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda are two globally agreed agendas that can guide the achievement of sustainable urban development, in line with the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

Cities such as Hamburg, Barcelona, Helsinki, Milan, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen have developed ambitious climate plans which put them at the forefront of achieving climate neutrality by 2030. They are moving towards a circular economy, with ambitious green urban planning projects, freeing public land from cars and traffic, investing in sustainable and shared mobility, and increasing the number of bicycle paths. Other cities are planting thousands of trees, investing in renewable energy, building efficiency, saving energy, and the creative reuse of waste.

Europe can become a global reference for sustainable and democratic digitization, combining the European Green Deal and Europe's digital strategy, using the Next Generation EU Funding Program to make our cities greener and carbon neutral. 

Data as a public infrastructure

To achieve the net zero objectives, cities need to run digital infrastructures (connectivity, data, sensors and platforms) that collect public data on electricity and heat consumption, mobility, water management and pollution. This data can be managed ethically and securely, preserving the privacy, rights and digital sovereignty of citizens and at the same time sharing them with startups, multiutilities and companies to create value and services in the public interest.

The New Hanse is experimenting with next generation data sharing and data governance models, focusing on private to public to society (B2G2S) data sharing for micromobility (open also to start-ups and innovators to access data to develop new micromobility solutions). The Europe-wide high-level Data Commons Working Group will produce blueprints for “Data Sharing for the Public Interest'' that can be used and scaled across Europe.

Companies will also benefit from these data sharing partnerships by accessing newly, mutually pooled sources of data and the discovery of new technologies.

Digital and green cities that place people at the center

The New Hanse is designed with a participatory approach in mind, to advance digital and participatory democracy across Europe. Cities need to engage citizens and make them participate in political decisions – this is what the example of the City of Barcelona showed: one of the largest experiments in participatory democracy experiments in the world, thanks also to a digital democracy platform (decidim.barcelona) which today is used by over 100 cities and governments in 20 countries around the world and by the European Union for the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The Europe-wide Data Commons Working Group

The Data Commons Working Group (DCWG) will act as a high-level advisory body to the City of Hamburg in the context of the Urban Data Challenge Hamburg, as part of The New Hanse Initiative. The DCWG will discuss the regulation of urban data as well as its development horizons in Europe and beyond – for instance in relation with the EU Data Act and the AI Act. The DCWG is composed of high-level Europe-wide members from multidisciplinary backgrounds.