CityLab, Smart City Berlin

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Key Learnings for future Berlin Smart City Strategy

On 23 and 24 March, more than 500 registered guests and over 40 scientists and experts from all over the world took part in the Smart City Symposium, which was jointly hosted by CityLAB, run by the Technologiestiftung Berlin, the Berlin Senate Chancellery and the Centre for Digital Governance of Hertie School. Various workshops and discussions addressed and reflected on the current state of research.

For two days, the internationally attended “Redefining the Smart City” online symposium discussed the chances and risks of a “smart” urban future. At various workshops, international scientists and experts gave insights into their work regarding Smart Cities and lead lively discussions with their audiences afterwards.

More than 500 delegates had registered for the event, which was jointly hosted by CityLAB Berlin and the Berlin Senate Chancellery as well as the Centre for Digital Governance of Hertie School. The symposium focussed on the Smart City oriented towards the common good, in which the citizens play an increasingly important role. All over the world, big cities are now involving their residents actively in finding solutions of pressing problems such as climate change, conservation of resources or the sustainable improvement of the inner-city infrastructure.

“Smart Citizens in Smart Cities” was the title of the keynote delivered by Beth Simone Noveck, director of the Governance Lab at New York University (NYU) and Chief Innovation Officer of New Jersey. In her speech, she emphasised how “crowd intelligence” can play an important role in the development of Smart Cities. At the same time she emphasised that citizen participation processes have to be well planned and need objectives to be successful. Other renowned speakers were the Italian economist and social scientist Francesca Bria, as well as Bianca Wylie, founder of the Open Data Institute Toronto. The four main topics addressed in the workshops were citizen-orientation, economy and administration, data governance and administrative capacities in the context of the Smart City.

Results from the Smart City Symposium (selection)

  • Citizens know best what a city should look like that is comfortable to live in. Therefore they should be involved in the development process of a new Smart City Strategy from the beginning.
  • Co-creation is one of the key concepts for a successful Smart City.
  • Participation is a process which needs a strategy and method.
  • Technology is not an objective in itself. It is more of a strategy that needs to be implemented properly.
  • Not just technology should be “smart” but also the citizens of cities.
  • We don’t just need “Smart Cities” but also “Happy Cities”.
  • You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Many things are already in existence. All stakeholders can and should learn from each other.
  • Open and unbiased work is required. The path of a city towards being a Smart City is a journey into the unknown. Clear strategies therefore are and will remain important.
  • Public administration can play an important role in the development of a city towards a Smart City – but only in co-operation with partners from civic society, business, science and citizens.

Several panellists also underlined the importance of “Public Private People Partnerships” for the development of Smart Cities – to share responsibilities and to increase the trust in results and end-products.

In the data governance workshop, the speakers emphasised that open data strategy is the key component of each Smart City strategy, because open access to data not only increases administrative transparency, but also enables all sectors of the economy to make observations and drive innovations that previously seemed impossible. At the same time the panellists stressed the importance of a forward-looking data acquisition strategy. For this, however, it should be carefully considered which of the stakeholders would retain the rights to the data generated by the implementation of a smart city strategy.

The findings from the Smart City Symposium are to be incorporated into the development of the Smart City Strategy, which is part of the Model Project Smart City supported by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (Bundesministerium des Innern, für Bau und Heimat, BMI). On its way to a new Smart City Strategy, Berlin has started a multi-stage participation process at the beginning of March. This is to ensure that the issues at hand are discussed with all interested groups in the city and that their input is incorporated into the new strategy. The online symposium “Redefining the Smart City” was one of the first events in the current conceptual phase. An up-to-date list of further events can be found on the „Öffentlicher Wissensspeicher zur Entwicklung der Smart City Strategie“ (public knowledge repository on the development of a Smart City Strategy).  (vdo)