Why Smart City London should be a #NetworkedCity: participatory, sharing, inclusive and accessible

City Hall have launched a “listening exercise” to help the Chief Digital Officer Theo Blackwell and his Board fulfil the Mayor’s aim to make London the world’s leading Smart City.

Currently Bristol is judged to be in the lead with Manchester and Birmingham third and fourth.

The Huawei UK Smart Cities Index rankings were calculated by an in-depth analysis of ten criteria within the cities’ strategy and execution, covering areas such as their vision, digital innovation, implementation record, environmental impact and community reach.

There are examples in Theo Blackwell’s blog post on Medium of “how data and smart initiatives can help citizens”. I hope Smart City plans may also help our communities and social structure, about which more later.

Update: Now spotted that Smart London have also published on Medium:

The listening exercise blog post suggests we could get:

Improved public services — City budgeting focused on citizen outcomes, not departmental spending; Bringing health and social care data together for targeted care; live waste data to improve recycling rates and collection frequency; better/digitised public services lowering costs.

Public spaces — sharing of data on the local places citizens use can lead to better design of GP surgeries, schools, parks, shops, and access to sports, entertainment and culture venues during the day and at night.

More personal learning and skills — targeted learning based on personal data and a better understanding of needs and preferences, work patterns or caring responsibilities.

Participation — through civic crowdfunding for neighbourhood projects, participatory financing, community budgeting and better planning/regeneration representation on developments.

Transport reliability and options — Using tracking data from Wifi to guide new travel choices such as smart mobility, car and bicycle sharing and testing autonomous vehicles.

Energy — data on energy consumption from smart meters, if securely and privately shared, and processed alongside public data, could inform better policy making, investment and business decisions, as well as fuel the creation of more tailored and personalised services — increasing inclusion and meeting the specific aim of reducing fuel poverty.

Better public Wifi and connectivity —using public buildings and streets and parks; preparing for 5G technologies.

Personal and public health — such as using data to encourage walking and cycling and steer citizens away from air pollution hotspots; collecting health tracking data and health records with academia, boroughs, and drug manufacturers to tackle chronic diseases of Londoners such as diabetes and asthma

More reliable home and office services — in energy, broadband, water, security services; for example, sharing of energy data to allow for local energy trading/cheaper forms of local energy supply.

What’s not too clear from the blog post is how City Hall sees Smart City contributing to its other priorities in the London plan – for example the Mayor’s Vision for a Diverse and Inclusive City.
I’ll check in with the Smart City team to see if there is more in the plan.

That’s important because these days tech isn’t necessarily seen as wholly beneficial.

Last year NESTA ran an excellent event on digital innovation where CEO Geoff Mulgan explained why digital social innovation should be both bottom-up and top-down.

What we have learned – contrary to many expectations 30 or 40 years ago – is that most of the dynamic of digital and indeed the knowledge economy, through most societies, is that it widens disparity, it widens inequalities. It creates fantastic pockets and hubs of amazing activity in London or Barcelona or Berlin or Copenhagen but actually the distance in terms of life opportunity, income and so on tends to widen, so it is really important that we focus again and again on the social dimension and don’t just celebrate the digital.

At the NESTA event we heard about the Barcelona Digital City Plan. The plan covers:

A City in Common Technology for social change and public sector innovation

  • Develop a public, open and distributed citizen data infrastructure
  • Launch an open standards data collection platform
  • Implement strategies to involve citizens, businesses, communities, organizations, universities and research centers
  • Public administration digital transformation and innovation

Democratic City Technology for a participatory, collaborative and transparent city

  • Develop and standardize new models of participation in digital environment
  • Technological citizenship sovereignty and digital rights
  • Create a XXI century education and training for life and work
  • Bring emerging technologies closer to citizens to foster a modern, conscious, active and participatory society

Circular City Technology for a new, more sustainable and efficient urban model

  • Address with sustainability criteria, the most urgent urban problems
  • Reduce the digital gap between the different neighborhoods
  • Share and provide collective access to resources through democratic governance
  • Stimulate the culture of invention and technological innovation

Creative City Technology to promote invention, entrepreneurship and social innovation

  • Boost a more efficient, transparent and strategic use of public spending
  • Promote public administration innovation, within SMEs and Cooperatives
  • Stimulate the Barcelona network for digital social innovation
  • Foster a more pluralistic digital economy and make a new urban innovation model

Here’s further inspiration from Barcelona – an interview in Shareable with Francesca Bria, the chief innovation officer: Building the Networked City From the Ground Up With Citizens

In 2015 NESTA published a report Rethinking Smart Cities from the ground up that argued for a people-centred approach to smart cities:

” To have a chance of helping cities address some of the tough problems they face, we argue that further investment and support are needed to generate evidence about which approaches to using collaborative technologies are most effective. Cities then need to share these lessons so that other cities can adopt and build on the most successful approaches. In the introduction of this report we set out five main recommendations on how cities can better achieve this.

  • Set up a civic innovation lab to drive innovation in collaborative technologies.
  • Use open data and open platforms to mobilise collective knowledge.
  • Take human behaviour as seriously as technology.
  • Invest in smart people, not just smart technology.
  • Spread the potential of collaborative technologies to all parts of society.”

I’m hopefully that there’s scope to introduce this sort of thinking, as Smart City plans develop.

We can offer some input from the Networked City exploration we’ve been engaged in for the past year: overview here on our wiki.

The briefing paper for our launch event offered a model of communities as social ecosystems, whose connectedness and health is affected for good or ill by technology.

It is a case made strongly more recently, by David Robinson, as I reported here. David argues that technology is increasing social isolation, and that we have to plan how to use it to positive effect.

David posted ten pieces about Connecting Well on Medium, and has agreed that I can repost them here on our wiki. In addition, David will be speaking at a free event on March 12 2018.
How relationships change the world, and where to go with what we know. That’s a must.

Over the past year Networked City and Connecting Londoners has focussed on plans for new infrastructure for London civil society, and in particular plans for a resource Hub for London.

Together with the Our Way Ahead network of networks we’ve made the case for a networked approach, not just a central resource, and for investing in people to achieve that.

The priority functions for the Hub are now agreed as data, networks and networking, and voice/influencing. The Smart City team have invited the advisory group to the Hub – of which I have been a member – to make an input to plans.

It may be that issues like social isolation, and living well in in digital age, fall outside plans for a Smarter City. If so, I think that makes it all the more important for Hub for London to collaborate to address these issues.

Addition: in my original post I neglected to mention excellent work at the RSA by senior researcher Brhmie Balaram, which I quoted here. In Cities 3.0 – from data-driven to people-powered Brhmie writes:

We envision that in Networked Cities, P2P technology would be embedded in systems akin to the technology of Smart Cities, but would enable a collaborative approach to problem-solving, as it has in Sharing Cities.

In Networked Cities, however, the goal citizens are working towards is broader than managing shared assets and resource; the ambition here would be to apply P2P technology to support inclusive growth. While cities have long been drivers of growth, in recent years they have also struggled with widening inequality, compelling cities to pursue a new agenda that rebalances social objectives and economic priorities. Under the banner of achieving inclusive growth, cities must find solutions to emerging problems of health, housing, the environment, ageing and other demographic change.

At the RSA, we’d argue that Networked Cities goes beyond simply rethinking the Smart City or Sharing City in terms of the tools or technologies that we use, or how we engage citizens, because we are also redefining the problems and challenges being tackled. The Networked City is about more than managing public space and population growth or enabling resource efficiency; rather it takes into account wider social challenges that cities are confronting in their pursuit of a more equal society.

###Networked City and Hub for London

###Smart Cities

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