Elisabeth Kongsmark “Becoming a smart city is not a goal in itself”

Prior to the Smart City Event Paul Hazebroek, freelance journalist, interviewed Elisabeth Kongsmark, city coordinator for Copenhagen of the European FP7 project 'Transformation agenda for low carbon cities'. Smart City-thinking is more like an instrument For Copenhagen becoming a smart city is not a goal in itself, explains Elisabeth Kongsmark,...
Elisabeth Kongsmark “Becoming a smart city is not a goal in itself”

Prior to the Smart City Event Paul Hazebroek, freelance journalist, interviewed Elisabeth Kongsmark, city coordinator for Copenhagen of the European FP7 project ‘Transformation agenda for low carbon cities’.

Smart City-thinking is more like an instrument

For Copenhagen becoming a smart city is not a goal in itself, explains Elisabeth Kongsmark, city coordinator for Copenhagen of the European FP7 project ‘Transformation agenda for low carbon cities’ (TRANSFORM). “For Copenhagen Smart City-thinking is more like an instrument, that helps us to create a liveable and sustainable place for all. As a city you never can say ‘pfiew, now we are smart’. It’s about being able to constantly  grab new developments and new challenges.”

Being responsable for bringing Copenhagen in line with the Transform-project, Elisabeth explains that she and here colleagues in the TRANSFORM project look at the Smart City-concept primarily from the angle of energy and sustainability, “like you can also look at it from the angle of health and education”. She adds  the Smart City-instrument is essential for Copenhagen for realizing the EU targets for 2020 (20% lower carbon emissions, 20% of energy from renewables and 20% increase in energy efficiency) and also for realizing the ambition of becoming the first carbon neutral capital in the world by 2025

Ambitious use of open data and new technologies

“When we say Smart City in Copenhagen, we mean an ambitious use of open data and new technologies in the field of information and communication, or the use of old technologies in new ways”, Elisabeth further describes the Smart City-vision of the Danish capital. “Also, we have in Copenhagen and in the TRANSFORM project a strong focus on governance, which is also extremely important for a ‘smart city’ approach. Especially the aspect of engaging the right stakeholders and working across silos. The best example of a smart city project that I – as a city coordinator in TRANSFORM – would think of, is of course the European project TRANSFORM that Copenhagen at the moment is doing together with five other European cities (Amsterdam, Vienna, Lyon, Genova and Hamburg) and a number of business and knowledge partners. TRANSFORM is a research and implementation project and is to generate systems, methods and tools to accelerate and improve energy transformation in the cities.Together the partners work to transform the cities into sustainable cities, complying with ‘Smart City Development’. For Copenhagen, the TRANSFORM project has helped to put ‘smart city’ on it’s own agenda and has provided input and inspiration on how to work in new ways.”

Copenhagen Connecting

Another good example of a concrete ‘smart city’ project in Copenhagen is ‘Copenhagen Connecting’. As ‘the best plan in the world for collecting and using data to create a greener city, a higher quality of life for its citizens and a better business climate’, Copenhagen was rewarded for it with the fourth edition of the World Smart Cities Award, last year in Barcelona. The jury praised the Danish capital for the intelligent use of wireless data from cell phones, GPS’s in busses and sensors in sewers and garbage cans. “It will assist the Copenhagen politicians in achieving the city’s objectives of reduced congestion, air pollution and CO2-emissions”, Elisabeth underlines.

Smart city effort, more than just a plan

The smart city effort in Copenhagen is more than just a plan. The city is far along with smart data based investments in also lighting and intelligent traffic signals and controls. According to the city combined this means that towards 2018 cyclists and bus passengers will get their travel time reduced by 10 % while the travel time by car will remain unchanged. The city estimates that when fully implemented Copenhagen Connecting will yield economic benefits of some 640 million euro’s.

As an important challenge for becoming a Smart City, Elisabeth mentions the access to and gathering of relevant and trustworthy data, while safeguarding that personal information will not be misused: “As a city we have hughe amounts of data but we are not always sure of the quality of it. If for example you want to monitor buildings and make the energy consumption inside intelligent, you need precise anden reliable data without getting into trouble with privacy-issues. There are also commercial issues. Because cities do not own all relevant data. Private actors do as well.”

Financing and the right stakeholders

Other hurdles Elisabeth mentions, are the funding of projects and the need for public-private partnerships (PPP’s) even when this means that two different cultures have to learn to work together: “How do you as a city attract financing and the right stakeholders? In any case we have to realize that partnerships have to be benefecial for all.” An idear, she explains, is that cities make part of their data accessible to private partners. To enable these parties to make good solutions based on these data that help citizens but are profitable for themselves  as well. Cities that take for their own account the non-profitable part of pilot-projects, is an other idear that she underwrites.

Finally Elisabeth mentions the Copenhagen Smart City Project Council was launched in 2014 and is set to include all seven administrations the City Council of Copenhagen is dievided in. “Smart City thinking challenges conventional ways to manage cities. We have to work much more cross-sectoral to make things work. So the walls between these departments have to be torn down and we have to have a more holistic approach. We have come allready a long way, but we are not yet entirely there.”

 

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