Citizens at the centre in the city of the future: smart city

The city will be the main focal point of the future Earlier this month the ‘Smarter cities innovation workshop’ took place at the IBM Netherlands HQ in Amsterdam. Delegates of city councils, energy companies and Telco’s met to exchange ideas and concepts about smarter cities. Peter Heij, Director-General of the...

The city will be the main focal point of the future

Earlier this month the ‘Smarter cities innovation workshop’ took place at the IBM Netherlands HQ in Amsterdam. Delegates of city councils, energy companies and Telco’s met to exchange ideas and concepts about smarter cities.

Peter Heij, Director-General of the Built Environment and Water at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment describes a world where ‘The City’ is the main focal point of the future. In 2050 it is predicted that 70% of the world population live in cities. ‘The City’ will be the centre of knowledge, culture, economy and power. The city differs from a municipality in that it could actually be a metropolitan region like the Randstad in the Netherlands. In forecasts of population growth it is evident that more and more people move away from rural areas to these metropolitan regions.

Strategy is aimed at the city developing into a smart city

This will have major consequences for planning, energy supply, waste management, quality of life, safety and security, knowledge, information and power. A city mayor could actually become more important than a head of state!

To be prepared for the next step in smart cities, it is important to put the citizen and citizen participation at the centre. Are local governments, businesses and people able to co-create a future together? In the future citizens can no longer rely on a government to take action. Any government policy should be aimed at working together as equal partners. The technology is already in place and will continuously be developed. Technology and information do add to the mount of data, big data already out there. Ab Steenbergen, CTO at the city of Eindhoven mentions: “through co-creation, the design of conceptual thinking, open data we can tackle challenges now and in the future. Strategy is aimed at the city developing into a smart city. And that the smart city uses ICT technologies like open data and fast connections”. Eindhoven is one of the first cities developing an open data platform to give its citizens more insight into data collected by the government. This can include data from environmental pollution, flows of traffic. Every citizen has a democratic right to open data. These citizens as well as businesses in an area can use these (open) data to create new concepts and projects.

Policies of decentralization from a national government to local governments will come into effect as of the 1st of January 2015 in the Netherlands. This means that data, data gathering, data architecture and the use of data will become building bricks of a city’s eco-system for collaboration and safety & security.

Organizations and products have changed or have even disappeared

As new groups in society will be forced to work together due to these new policies, technological advances and needs of citizens and businesses, it is important to look at alliance management strategies at the same time. Geert Duysters, Professor at Tilburg University, specializes in alliance management. He noticed that organisations and products were all used to a decade ago have changed or have even disappeared. Think about broadsheet newspapers, travel agencies in main shopping streets, record shops and even bookshops. Even Nokia, the market leader in mobile phones ten years ago, have practically disappeared. A Nokia Lumia is now called a Microsoft smart phone.

What products and which organisations will be next? Do we dare to think that a brand name as big as ‘Shell’ could ever disappear? People like routine and they always like to think from a perspective of the ‘here and now’. That is why there are movies set in the future, where people smoke in confined spaces and wear platform-shoes.

Alliander, a distribution network operator in the Netherlands, mentions in its business strategy the following: “only in cooperation with firms, (local) governments and end-users we can achieve sustainable area development”.
But, collaboration, citizen participation and a changing government alone is not enough. The parties involved must create rules for goals, evaluation criteria, a timeline and a certain amount of flexibility. Otherwise it is feared that smart city projects end up like a Nokia mobile phone.

By: Linda Brouwer, Euroforum

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