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In January, city representatives and experts gathered to discuss how to build smarter cities that work for all their residents at the ‘Imagine the Urban Future’ conference co-organised by the Green Digital Charter (GDC) and the EUROCITIES Knowledge Society Forum (KSF).
This was the first gathering of a series of ‘Imagine the Urban Future’ events, launched by EUROCITIES for 2018, an occasion to take an in-depth look at EUROCITIES’ vision, priorities and actions.
At the conference, participants brought their local experiences in working for a better urban future through the use of ICT and digital technologies, in particular related to environmental challenges and the future of work.
Speakers, workshops’ moderators and city representatives share their views in a series of individual interviews available on our YouTube channel : http://bit.ly/2tTGUUG.
This video gives a summary of the main topics treated at the ‘Imagine the Urban Future’ conference:
Are the cities of the future to be a series of opal blue utopias, or streets of bent necked citizens crouching over screens?
At ‘Imagine the Urban Future’, the Green Digital Charter (GDC) and Knowledge Society Forum (KSF) joint conference held on 23 January, cities and experts gathered to discuss how they could build smarter cities that work for all their residents. How can leaders best mediate the dual tasks of moving their cities forward while ensuring that they are travelling in the right direction?
— ENoLL (@openlivinglabs) January 23, 2018
Putting the you in utopia
In her welcome speech, Eindhoven’s vice-mayor for innovation and KSF chair, Mary-Ann Schreurs stressed that tech innovation should never be for its own sake, but rather be centred around the citizen, “Let’s put the good life first, let’s put society first, let’s put technology in service of that.”
Anna-Lisa Boni, secretary general of EUROCITIES, suggested that we need open dialogue about the kinds of algorithms our technology will employ, so that citizens can have access to these otherwise opaque systems.
When used right, technology can be a major aid to democratic governance. Daniela Patti, managing director at Eutropian, pointed to the capacity of e-governance systems to increase the diversity of the people that governments connect to. As in Madrid’s Participa LAB, techniques like participatory budgeting and crowdsourcing regulation can put citizens in the driver seat of their cities. Indeed, as Peter Baeck, head of collaborative economy research at Nesta, pointed out, crowdfunding now accounts for 60% of the funding for start ups in the UK. If similar mechanisms can be set up at government level, high uptake can be expected.
Highlights from @GDCharter @EUROCITIEStweet #KSFcities event in #Brussels: thoughtful, productive and informed discussions. Feeling hopeful for the future of European cities… pic.twitter.com/sHx6i60VPI
— Jessica Symons (@Jessicasymons) January 24, 2018
Tech must work for people
Nevertheless, Mr Baeck also warned that cities risk not preparing their residents sufficiently for the technological tidal wave that may be swelling before us. How can cities help the potentially huge numbers of people whose jobs are soon to be automated? Local governments must provide training for people that enables them to switch professions.
Claire Courteille, director of the International Labour Organisation Brussels office, confirmed that the upskilling battle must be fought on two fronts. On one hand, people need to be retrained into careers that require soft skills, creativity, teamwork and collaboration. On the other hand, 40% of the EU workforce has little or no digital literacy – a stark figure. It is essential the training is provided for people so that they can engage in the digital world.
Ms Courteille declared that, “we must reject the idea of techno-predestination. We have to take control, upskill and prepare for rapid change. Life long learning will have to become a reality.”
Giving the example of the guifi.net mesh network, Mr Baeck concluded that people and groups have the potential to act in extremely innovative ways, but they must first be empowered to do so.
— Martin Brynskov (@brynskov) January 23, 2018
The future is in our cities
“Cities,” claimed Ms Schreurs, “are the foremost at creating solutions.” It is cities who are focussing on the interoperability of tech on a European level, and working together to create generic technology that delivers local solutions.
However, Ms Schreurs also warned that cities must take control, “You need a concept of what you want your city to be. If you don’t structure the cooperation and organise the governance, it won’t fly.” Markus Bylund, director of IT and digitalisation strategy for the city of Uppsala, emphasised that “If we continue as we are today, we will fail. In the key to the digital future, technology is just 10%, the rest is changing the way we do things.”
@danielapatti questions the impact of giants from the #sharingeconomy on our cities. Genoa tries to do something about it, will other cities follow? #KSFcities @EUROCITIEStweet @Eutropian pic.twitter.com/rzZ9ihpnQe
— GreenDigitalCharter (@GDCharter) January 23, 2018
Taking on the titans
While cities like Amsterdam are bringing giant companies like Airbnb to the negotiating table and bargaining for better solutions, many cities still don’t feel empowered to shape globalisation to their own terms.
“This,” Ms Boni confirmed, “is the time for cities. It is important for cities to join forces by being part of a group that can really change things in policy making, through more funding and attention to cities, but one that also allows cities to work together to pool their insights and to innovate. The best way to predict the future is to create it”.
The series, ‘Imagine the Urban Future’, will continue throughout 2018, with events being organised in each EUROCITIES forum. Through this series of events, and high-impact campaigns such as Cities4Europe, EUROCITIES is taking its own advice by actively shaping the debate around the future that cities want to see within Europe and beyond.
Amsterdam will be walking away with the GDC 2018 award for the City-ZEN ‘virtual power plant’, a project which puts green energy into the grid and money into residents’ pockets at the same time.
“The City-ZEN project not only stabilises the local grid in the neighbourhood but also decreases the societal cost of the energy transition locally” said Jan Willem Eising, project coordinator, accepting the award.
The virtual power plant is an online platform which puts together the solar energy that residents are creating and consuming, storing the surplus locally. This allows residents who are generating their own solar energy in their homes and sell it on the open market! So far, more than 40 households have taken part in the initiative in the Dutch capital’s district of Niew-West.
This project delivered impressively on GDC’s selection criteria by putting citizens at the centre of ICT innovation, enabling them through technology to improve their own quality of life by bring the city closer to its green goals. Most importantly, this engaging method of incentivising solar energy production among citizens is highly reclable – there is little to prevent every city in Europe from implementing their own version of this programme. Indeed, we hope they will!
The jury, which consisted of Miimu Airaksinen (VTT, Finland); Jan Dictus (GOJA Consulting, Austria); and Cristobal Irazoqui (European Commission, DG CNECT), were very impressed with all the case studies submitted to the Green Digital Charter’s annual publication.
Two other projects stood out. Bristol’s REPLICATE project, piloted through 150 ‘smart homes’, is an energy demand management scheme that monitors and controls energy use in order to level out peak demand. Dublin’s iSCAPE project uses ‘passive control systems’ to reduce the impact of air pollution in urban spaces, in combination with policy interventions and creating behavioural changes in citizens’ lifestyle.
From 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.
The results are in!
Three cities have been selected from all the fantastic case studies submitted to the Green Digital Charter’s annual publication. All participating cities will be immortalised in 2018’s case studies collection, but only one will walk away with first prize during the ‘Imagine the Urban Future: Innovation, Collaboration, Trust’ conference organised by GDC and EUROCITIES KSF on 23 January 2018 in Brussels.
And the shortlisted GDC signatory cities are …
Amsterdam, with the City-Zen Project presents the virtual power plant, an online ICT-platform which aggregates people’s production and consumption of solar energy and stores the surplus locally, allowing its citizens to sell home-generated green energy on the open market. So far, more than 40 households have taken part to the initiative in the Dutch capital’s district of Nieuw-West.
Energy is also the core topic of the second finalist’s case study, the City of Bristol, where, in the framework of the REPLICATE project, an energy demand management scheme will be put in place to monitor and control energy use allowing to level out peak demand. The system will be piloted through 150 “smart homes”, having the opportunity to test “connected or smart appliances”.
The third finalist is Dublin, showcasing the iSCAPE project, aimed at improving the smart control of air pollution in Europe. In order to more efficiently reduce the impact of air pollution, this project comes out with a mixed approach focusing on the use of “Passive Control Systems” in urban spaces, on policy interventions and behavioural changes of citizens lifestyle.
Meet the jury
A jury consisting of Miimu Airaksinen (VTT, Finland); Jan Dictus (GOJA Consulting, Austria); and Cristobal Irazoqui (European Commission, DG CNECT) will decide which of the shortlisted projects scores best on the use of ICT, the effectiveness in meeting the city’s targets, and the involvement of citizens and civils society stakeholders.
Join at the ‘Imagine the Urban Future: Innovation, Collaboration, Trust’ conference on 23 January to learn more about all the innovative projects cities are carrying out, and to see which one carries off first prize!
Registration are still open at http://bit.ly/2k4yzZG.
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On Tuesday 23 January 2018 will be held EUROCITIES’ annual event on smart cities. Untitled “Imagine the Urban Future: Innovation, Collaboration, Trust”, this full-day conference will focus on trends, technologies and challenges that will shape future European cities. City representatives, high level policy makers and experts from across Europe will debate over expectations, opportunities and the impact of digital technologies in co-creating future cities and societies, with citizens.
The morning panel discussion will be followed by two rounds of parallel technical workshops, in which member cities are called to bring in their specific needs, challenges, concerns and concrete examples. The day will end with the GDC 2017 award ceremony to mark the closing of the GuiDanCe project in February.
This full-day event is open to the public.
The conference will be preceeded by a technical training for cities’ data officers on the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). See: http://bit.ly/2Al7bha
Limited number of seats available (25 pers. max). Register now