Cover Impulspapier „Technologie und Mensch in der Kommune von morgen“

Foto: cover "Technologie und Mensch in der Kommune von morgen“

2nd Discussion Paper: Digitisation, Sustainability and Resilience – Why Linking These Topics is Key

Which standards are essential and necessary for German cities and municipalities in the course of digital transformation? This is just one of the questions that the second discussion paper issued by the Smart City Standards Forum (SCSF), entitled “Technology and People in the Municipalities of Tomorrow”, aims to answer. The document also contains recommended actions around digitisation; sustainability and the recycling economy; and resilience.  

Norms and standards provide clarity – for example when it comes to the qualities of products, services and procedures. They are a key aspect of quality assurance and enhancement in business, technology, science and public administration. The digital transformation that cities and municipalities are undergoing, and their development towards smart cities, require new and additional regulations and principles, and not just for the technical systems. We need blueprints for linking a range of different fields of application in business and the society, as well as for new ways in which interest groups can cooperate. The COVID-19 crisis in particular has made the weak points in German digitisation apparent and has shown which areas are in urgent need of action. 

n order to illustrate the need for standardisation in German cities and municipalities and to provide recommended actions, the Smart City Standards Forum (SCSF) of the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) has now published its discussion paper entitled “Technology and People in the Municipality of Tomorrow” (Technologie und Mensch in der Kommune von morgen).  The paper fleshes out the call for a national digital transformation strategy made in the first discussion paper in 2017. The three core issues of the second discussion paper are all of a more overarching nature: Digitisation; Sustainability and the Recycling Economy; and Resilience. 

“The SCSF aims to set the framework and provide impetus for interdisciplinary matters concerning the digital transformation of municipalities, to highlight flaws and push for new standardisations,” explains René Lindner, Senior Project Manager for Innovation, Research and Transfer at DIN and member of the SCSF. “To do so, we identified three key issues over the course of 2019: ‘Digitisation Under Exceptional Circumstances’; ‘Securing the Future of Cities and Municipalities Through Sustainability and the Recycling Economy’; and ‘Resilience in Cities and Municipalities’. In 2020, we hosted three workshops to work on these issues; the workshops were attended by around 40 people, among them 16 municipal representatives and smart city actors from the fields of industry and science.”  

Thematically, the discussion paper takes a closer look at emerging needs for action in a municipal context, outlining relevant challenges and thus making them more easily recognisable and tangible. The paper also sketches concrete, initial recommended actions for cities and municipalities that enable them to activate appropriate measures immediately. 

As Joachim Schonowski, one of the SCSF’s two joint managers, explains, “The paper contains a number of recommendations for standards, for example requirements for the interaction of digital systems as well as for monitoring  effectiveness in the field of digitisation, the resilience of digital systems and circular cities. It also presents recommended (political) actions that aim to provide additional support in regard to the digital transformation of municipalities, flanking the need for standardisation.” In principle, the discussion paper shows that sustainability, circular supply chains and resilience are key components of digitisation and therefore need to be developed and implemented in a common context from the start. 

Key messages of the discussion paper

  • The digitisation of cities and municipalities should be handled in a meaningful, holistic and sustainable manner. 
  • The concept of the circular city that can harness its full potential with the aid of sustainable, digital systems and thus benefit from a highly efficient use of resources, for example, now needs to be implemented.
  • Municipal resilience needs to focus on digital systems.

The need for norms and standards highlighted in the SCSF’s second discussion paper is a preliminary step in the development of DIN SPECS, which establish standards from research on the market. They also help fill blind spots on the standardisation road map for smart cities in Germany, which the Smart City Standards Forum will be following up on. “The standardisation road map is a key tool for German municipalities, as it depicts those norms and standards related to smart cities that are currently either available or under development in each field of activity (as well as across fields of activity), presenting them in an aggregated form,” says Klaus Illigmann, who is also a joint manager of the SCSF. The road map provides a good overview that helps municipalities orient themselves thematically, says Iligmann, but it also has an additional benefit. “It creates a preliminary quasi-standard that will have an impact on the corresponding solution providers.”

In terms of perspective, standardising digitisation and the arising data could point to a German-European path  – one that could potentially lead to an international test certificate: Smart Cities Made in Germany/Europe. (vdo)

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