News

Urban Governance

28 September 2018

Are digital solutions the future of urban governance?

Changing technology is shifting the way European cities operate. Increasingly, local governments are embracing the possibilities of digital tools and platforms to expand local democracy. From opening up city data to participatory budgeting, creating online forums for citizen feedback to e-petitions, digital governance offers a range of new ways for local governments to directly connect with citizens.

As with any innovation in the digital realm, there are potentially serious drawbacks that subtract from the idealised potential. Cyber-security concerns, ensuring that non-tech savvy citizens are not left behind, and the fear of difficult decisions giving way to populism have all been cited as possible negatives hidden within this digital governance revolution.

To explore these issues, the Informed Cities conference series will hold the event "Opening up the smart city: Open governance, data and people" from 7 – 8 November in Vienna (Austria).

“Participants will have one and a half days of interactive sessions and workshops to look at how digital tools can transform the way that citizens and municipalities interact with each other. We are not following the format of a traditional conference. We want people to have a real hands-on experience,” said Joseph Marshment-Howell, one of the conference organizers. “The conference will gather a lot of exciting actors including technology experts, researchers, local policy makers, urban planners, businesses, NGO representatives and more, so it’s a great place to meet people, talk and share ideas.”

“We’re not only trying to show local governments what the possibilities of digital tools are, we’re trying to make the people who develop these tools think about what cities need. Municipalities will come away with a good idea of what’s out there in terms of digital services, but they will also be able to give their input into what’s important to them and what’s not.”

Host city Vienna will play a strong role in the event, with participants given the chance to interact with some of the city’s ongoing digitalisation initiatives. “Vienna has a very advanced smart city and digitalisation strategy, so it’s great to be able to ground the reality of the discussion in a city. It’s the perfect host city,” said Joseph.

The 6th Informed Cities conference will also function as the final conference of the smarticipate project. The EU-funded project aims to make open data available to citizens in an understandable format. By doing so, it seeks to transform open data from a little used resource to a vital tool to plan the future of a city. Through the digital smarticipate platform, users will be able to see proposed urban planning changes on a map of their city. If the user has an idea to improve the proposal, they can make the change directly, observing their alterations in real time. The smarticipate platform features an automated feedback algorithm that can harness datasets to guide users' interactions, for example, letting them know when their proposals conflict with property or zoning restrictions. Other users can also see the new proposal and comment on it.

The smarticipate platform will be officially launched at the conference, with participants given the opportunity to try it out for themselves. Representatives of the three smarticipate partner cities – Hamburg, Rome and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London – will be on hand to discuss their experience in developing and trialling the smarticipate platform in their cities. Interested cities can also discuss how smarticipate can be used in their municipalities.

Registration for the event is available online. Participation is free of charge. Selected local government representatives can apply for reimbursement, with priority for ICLEI members. To enquire, contact: info@informedcities.eu.

For more information, click here.