Our presence in the Barcelona Smart City Expo (remember – the one where you could buy lots of smart cities in a box) was noticed by the press, more precisely the Guardian. Their focus is in the Open Smart City approach of Helsinki.
The New Smart City article quotes Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts of Forum Virium Helsinki: “Open311 interface allows citizens to send photos or update reports on anything from pot holes to traffic signs, the imagination is the limit. Open311 is also an open dataset, allowing third party developers or the citizens themselves to develop apps or services”.
In the provocatively headlined Stupid Mayors Are Putting The Wrong Things At The Heart Of Smart Cities the newspaper points out, that “truly smart cities such as Helsinki are using technology that is already out on the streets and on the web, enabling residents to input and update via smartphones, while apps help them to navigate the city more efficiently.”
Thanks for the support & keep spreading the word.
Back from Barcelona Smart Cities Expo & World Congress, I’m thinking about what makes cities smart. The sales pitches of companies operating in the field seem to fall into roughly two categories; you can either attach a sensor to everything and thus monitor it all, or then you can install an operating system to the city and then monitor it all.
Preferably, you do the monitoring of the city from an underground Control Centre.
I do have issues with this thinking, especially in the the context of the cities of the developing countries. They are being sold the same gadgets as to the western cities, packed together with to proprietary business models and long-term service contracts.
But what is the most valuable ingredient of a city? it’s people. Cities consist of people. Either they behave smart, or they don’t. Either they participate in making the city better, or they don’t. Citizens are an untapped resource for the cities. If the cities really want to become smart, they must activate them to work with the city administration in service provision. Smart cities need smart citizens.
Proprietary, vertical silos and City Control Centres are a poor match with the citizen-driven distributed city. Mayors, please, take note: cities are too complex to be solved. Respect the complexity and don’t underestimate the city. If we want to “solve” the city, we need much more resources than just the taxpayers´ money. We need the taxpayers themselves.
The World Bank seems to get this better than most smart city service providers. The World Bank Institute supports collaborative models, empowering the people to harvest data, by opening service interfaces and processes. The CitiSense event brought together global cities, developers and open data advocates to discuss and learn. Let’s hope they can make an impact within the bank as well, as funds should not be wasted in closed systems – especially not in the developing countries.
Oh yes, sometimes it IS sexy to collaborate in the European Commission projects (you can call me perverted if you want). Our open data project Helsinki Region Infoshare was awarded the Commission prize for the best innovation in public administration in Dublin, selected out of 203 proposals (the commission press release here).
The prize of 100,000 € will be used to develop services further, including access to public information about city decision making – that’s a whopping one million pages per year. The Open Ahjo API is one of the first cases in the new Helsinki Loves Developers action.
I am heading to Africa again, one year after my trip to the World Bank event in Kenya. Now I will speak in the innovation ecosystems track: “This session will explore the relative roles the public and private sectors play in facilitating innovation, innovative enterprises and a productive economy.”
Living labs, open data and community-driven smart cities on the agenda. More insights when I get there.
I got the chance to explain the benefits of open data to the Finnish public in the most popular talk show of the country, hosted by Arto Nyberg. Hard thing to do in 15 minutes, but my mother thinks it went OK. And she should know. For the international network, this is a good chance to practice your Finnish.