Highlights from the Knowledge Society Forum in Uppsala, Autumn 2017

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EUROCITIES Knowledge Society Forum met on 16-18 October in the Swedish city of Uppsala to discuss and share experiences on smart city governance models: leadership, partnership, and scalability to create the cities of the future. The forum attracted over 50 participants from 30 cities and organisations. Members had a chance to learn from each other, and to exchange innovative, collaborative and participatory approaches, initiatives and practices from Uppsala and other member cities.

During the debates and work sessions we learned that:
  • Uppsala municipality developed the ‘Digital management programme’ to make sure that the managers of today acquire adequate digital skills. The programme, which involves more than 500 managers within the city administration, not only transfers knowledge, but also inspires and challenges managers while create new ways of thinking. 
  • A collaborative governance model is the key to transform local communities into innovative, inclusive and sustainable cities. For the city of Zaragoza this model needs a new type of organisation that would gather a mix of different and new profiles, including civic leaders, engaged citizens, researchers, entrepreneurs, and artists, who could tackle urban problems and address new challenges together. An example of this new soft organisation is Etopia Center for Arts and Technology and, which houses Zaragoza's Open Urban Lab where programmes such as ‘100ideasZGZ’ or ’CrowdfundingZGZ’ support this vision and help to deliver new smart services following an open source approach. More information (in Spanish): https://openurbanlab.es/
  • For cities to become smarter and more sustainable, continuous engagement and collaboration with their local stakeholders is crucial. Uppsala developed an interesting project called ‘smart citizen initiative’ which provides a platform for citizen dialogue. By using tools and materials to simulate future scenario development, local stakeholders and public officers plan and develop possible digitally-based public services. While the project is still in its initial phases, a few examples of public services have been developed which include new parking spots, places to repair people’s bicycles for free, or interactive changing rooms in local malls.   
  • Our cities believe that collaboration is crucial at all levels: local, regional, national and European. Therefore, several EUROCITIES members are involved in the digital transition partnership of the Urban Agenda for the EU. The city of Oulu, one of the partnership coordinators, presented the current proposals for the partnership action plan which, among others, includes the development of a Digital Economy and Society index (DESI) at local level, a legal recognition of digital spatial plans, a 5G test network collaboration and a harmonised EU regulatory framework to access and re-use data of general interest. Members reacted to the proposed actions by posing questions and comments, especially in the field of data and digital skills, asking for clarification on definitions and on further steps. The draft proposed actions will be now sent to the members for further comments and concrete written inputs. 
  • Data is the backbone of smarter cities. At the data WG members discussed a number of topics that are currently at the centre of their work such as data visualisation – or how to present data in visual forms - data protection, cloud sourcing, open data – specifically within the city administration - and finally partnerships and data ownership. On this last topic Antwerp presented its experience on how to create an innovative test zone with partners. Anyone can take part, but they must share their data. Each partner retains data ownership and data will be anonymised. According to the city, this will open debate on what data can be shared – and once shared how it could be made open in the future. The city Council will facilitate the network.
  • Innovative examples from cities and their challenges:
    • Gijon Citizen Card allows citizens and visitors to access many public services in the quickest and simplest way possible, improving their quality of life. It can be used to pay bus tickets or parking or be used as an identity card to enter public libraries or swimming pools. Further development in standardisation and interoperability, as well as data protection, would allow a wider use of citizen cards all around Europe and by more people, boosting digitalisation services.
    • FindingPlaces initiative involved 400 citizens from Hamburg in an innovative search for public areas that would be suitable to create 20,000 accommodations for refugees. Further development in open data and data protection would allow more innovation and digitalisation, boosting open and transparent solutions and decision-making processes.
EUROCITIES Knowledge Society Forum will meet next time in Brussels from 23 to 24 of January 2018, with an open event on ‘Imagine the urban future’.

EUROCITIES staff contact

Federica Bordelot