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Shortlisted cities for the 2020 European Green Capital Award (ECGA) have been announced: Ghent and Lisbon, two out of three runners-up have signed the Green Digital Charter, asserting a political commitment to use digital technologies to improve quality of life in cities.

SAVE-THE-DATE : on Thursday 21 June 2018, winners of the 2020 EGCA will be announced in Nijmegen. The ceremony will be live-streamed. Keep an eye on the ECGA website ( and social media channel (@EU_GreenCapital)


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By Bart Rosseau, Chief Data Officer, City of Ghent

Linked open data

Linked open data on a semantic website might seem distant from the daily operations of local government, but in Ghent we believe the benefits outweigh the possible pitfalls of using this pioneering technology.

Originally defined by Sir Tim Berners Lee, the semantic web aims to connect data and meaning (not just the values but also the definitions) on a scale the size of the Internet. So you have not only a web of text and images but also of data with the same ease to jump from one data point to another, enabling artificial intelligence and humans to reason over these data points. Linked open data on a semantic website might seem distant from the daily operations of local government, but in Ghent we believe the benefits outweigh the possible pitfalls of using this pioneering technology.

Using the web as a distribution platform of contextualised data will allow us to distribute content, and filter datasets that are disconnected by design. Through machine-readable definitions and uniform resource identifiers (URIs), government-managed datasets become anchor points, allowing external data providers to add their content to those concepts. This allows for a more extensive knowledge graph based on linking data to content, rather than coupling on a technical level. As this is distributed over the Internet, there is no limit to possible links with other cities, government levels, companies, civil society and others.

Most of all, in Ghent we have experienced the benefits in a more internal alignment. By developing the semantic vocabularies we saw different city services agreeing on common terminology and meaning, and agreeing to coordinate data governance.

More institutions are adapting this technique, and the need to recognise and attract people with the right skillset is growing. Semantic experts and linked-data professionals are not knocking on our door (yet) but as more open source tools and accessible training programmes become available, the understanding, added value and sustainability will become essential to any data governance unit.

There is a huge difference in this evolution compared to other trends. The DNA of the semantic web is to reference data to validated concepts (ranging from peer-to-peer validation to internationally approved standards). There is a need to (re)use existing definitions, but also provide enough space to expand the definitions to suit specific needs.

Incremental approach

Until now, two projects have proved to be milestones in making us acquainted with the technology and its possibilities.

The first project was internal, where we added a machine-readable semantic context to our existing webpages. This meant that a published news item on our website became enriched with information on the location it referred to–the relevant city department, the responsible politician, its theme and so on. By applying the right query language, a local startup could filter the information and distribute it on their hyper local platform.

The OASIS project ( is a good example of how we can work internationally. The project (supported by the EU through its Connecting Europe Facility programme) has enabled us to work with Madrid to define vocabularies for public transport and city-issued government services.OASIS-project-Ghent

By adopting defined vocabularies, a web-based query to find government services, opening hours, the right department and the relevant public transport to take you there, becomes available, regardless of the language the web-based text is published in.

Of course, there are still some challenges. The short-term budgetary gains are not apparent, so the business case requires some more long-term thinking. There are still some debates on what supporting technology will prove to be the industry standard. The tools to make the wealth of information available to non-technical people are eagerly awaited.

The deep understanding and practical value needs to be developed, to embed this into the existing practices of IT and organisational development.

However, the implications and possibilities exceed the traditional boundaries of data management. Defining concepts and providing validated URIs for key policy tools and identities means that the role of the government as a validating, trusting authority becomes articulated in a digital world. For instance, providing URIs to government-approved initiatives–schools, philanthropic organisations and others–will add credentials that are easily shared and used in a digital environment.

Defining concepts by different government levels provides a more solid core to organise intergovernmental reporting and data exchange.

We are still in the early stages of this technology, the challenges are there, but so are the benefits.

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Barcelona Smart City Expo LOGOFrom 14 to 16 November 2017, EUROCITIES’ Green Digital Charter initiative was in Barcelona for the Smart City Expo. Signatory cities were there too, spread at the four corners of the huge exhibition area. Our first day was dedicated to tracking down and interview city officers about their city’s achievements and vision.

Bordeaux, Barcelona, Ghent, Nantes, Tampere, Valencia

Meet GDC signatories in our new video, and discover how the Green Digital Charter tries to connect and empower cities to imagine the urban future.

Read the full article on our presence at the Expo on EUROCITIES website.


When ? 6 March 2018

Where? City of Ghent, Data and Information Service



How can satellites help cities become more sustainable and efficient? How can satellite-based services enhance our urban experience? What satellite data is freely available and how to access it?

The ‘Space for Cities‘ event will present experiences of use of Earth Observation data in cities. Satellite applications are by definition objective, sharable and scalable. Satellite imagery is the most sophisticated of these applications, allowing for city managers to get an integrated view of land uses and infrastructures, and the one less known by the general public.

Come and join to:

  • discuss the opportunities (and challenges) related to satellite-based services to enhance quality of life in cities
  • get informed on existing datasets, in particular the Copernicus datasets
  • take part in the development of mobile applications

App For Ghent is an initiative gathering local actors aiming at maximizing the potential of open data through projects, events and co-creation. For this eight edition, Ghent’s hackthon is scheduled on 17 March 2018.

Agenda available at


Space for Cities is an Eurisy initiative, promoting the use of satellite applications to make our cities healthier, cleaner, safer, and more efficiency.

EGCA 22017 shortlisted cities European Green Capital

This infographic was originally published on the European Commission website

Three signatory cities of the Green Digital Charter are in the final race for winning the European Green Capital Award (EGCA) for the year 2019. Ghent, Lisbon and Tallinn are among the five main European cities selected by the jury for their efforts towards environmentally-friendly cities.

To win the price, they must convince the jury of:

  • their overall commitment to ongoing environmental improvement and sustainable development;
  • their capacity to act as a role model;
  • their strategy for communicating with the public


After Stockholm (2010), Nantes (2013) and Bristol (2015), will another GDC city be awarded greenest city in Europe in 2019?


SAVE THE DATE – Essen will host the award ceremony on 2 Jun e2017

To know more, visit the “European Green Capital” webpage. Would you like more information about it, please send an email to:

This article was originally published on the website

Daniël Termont is the mayor of Ghent and EUROCITIES president.


Daniël Termont, Mayor of Ghent and EUROCITIES' current president

Daniël Termont, Mayor of Ghent and EUROCITIES’ rotating president

“In Ghent, we combine our historical façades with a forward- looking vision. By 2020, I want my city to be open, inclusive, smart and child friendly. Key to this vision are our citizens – we want to build the Ghent of the future together.

Discussions around smart cities are too often driven by technology and industry. I believe cities, and their citizens, are at the core of the smart city transition. Technology is an important ingredient of course: we are looking to innovative solutions to manage our energy and transport systems better, manage, process and visualise data, and make life easier for all.

But we’re not overlooking the low-tech solutions that complement these: well-organised bike paths, for example, and vertical farming.

Technology for us is a means not an end and becoming smarter is about a whole lot more.

We need to find new ways of working together so we can make the most of everyone’s expertise. Public administrations, citizens, businesses and research institutes: we are all part of the same urban ecosystem and we all have something to offer. By pooling our resources, we can create better solutions that truly address our challenges and are owned by the entire city.

In Ghent, we have several tools to make this happen, such as the Ghent Climate Alliance, which is behind our vision of becoming climate neutral. Our Ghent Living Lab is an innovative platform where citizens, developers, researchers and businesses can co-create their city.

Smart cities rely on data, so opening up data is an important initiative for Ghent. Students and developers can use it to work on new solutions, including apps that make life easier for residents, such as a waste collection calendar and an app, ‘Parkmobile‘, to locate available parking spaces in real time.

We’ve even turned it into a competition: our annual hackathon, Apps for Ghent, invites developers to turn our open data into exciting new apps, such as Studio Dott’s PopBike (video), which enables users to calculate the best bike route and share bikes, and Ghendetta, a game that encourages users to explore city districts.

One of the challenges many cities face with opening data is protecting privacy. Citizens need to be able to access, use and manage their data, and for this they need adequate digital skills. This is a priority for Ghent as we want to make sure technology is accessible to everyone.

It is essential then that we create a level playing field. We need common and open standards and better interoperability between systems. This would open the market to more actors and would also bring down costs, and maximise the release, accessibility and usability of data, helping businesses grow.

Working together on projects is a must for testing and scaling up new solutions. Ghent is involved in several, including the Green Digital Charter, through which we commit to reducing our carbon footprint with smart ICT. We also need direct dialogue with European Union decision-makers.

With the Urban Agenda for the EU and the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities, we see new work processes that support the joining up of different levels of government and different sectors. This is a step in the right direction to address European and urban challenges together.

I am looking forward to the journey ahead and I am pleased to be sharing it with my colleagues at EUROCITIES, the network of major European cities. This is where I can bounce off ideas, discover new solutions and find ways to address shared challenges.

As a mayor, I know every corner of my city and have daily contact with citizens. This knowledge is crucial for making smart city solutions work. Working with cities means working with citizens, so by strengthening the links between EU institutions and cities, we are building a stronger Europe.