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The 17th edition of the Better cities - the role of digital technology series deals with strengthening local democracy through digitization.
In 1339, Ambrogio Lorenzetti completed his famous series of six paintings in the Town Hall of the Italian city of Siena, entitled The Allegory of Good and Bad Government. The above excerpt refers to the characteristics of good government: putting the interests of citizens first, renouncing self-interest, and integrity. But also developing a vision together with all those involved, transparency, justice and efficiently carrying out its many tasks.
In this article, I will discuss citizens’ involvement in government. The complaint is widely heard that democracy is reduced to voting once every few years and even then, it is not clear in advance what the policy of a new (city) government will be, due to the need to form coalitions. Digitization can substantially strengthen the citizen's input.
Being well-informed: the foundation of democracy
Digital channels are an excellent way to inform citizens, but digital disinformation and deepfakes are also on the rise. In this regard, YouTube has become notorious. Political microtargeting via Facebook has an uncontrollable impact and ruins the political debate. On the other hand, the 'Stemwijzer' app is a well-respected tool of informing citizens. Meanwhile, this tool has been adopted by a number of countries.
There are many other valuable digital sources of information, which increase the transparency of politics, for example by disclosing petty bribery, 'creative' accounting and preferential treatment. Prozorro (Ukraine) is a website that takes tenders away from the private sphere, My Society (UK) is an extensive collection of open source tools to hold those in power to account, Zašto (Serbia) is a website that compares statements of politicians with their actions and Funky Citizens (Romania) exposes irresponsible government spending, miscarriages of justice and forms of indecent political conduct.
Every time I am amazed at the fumbling with huge ballot-papers that then must be counted by hand. Estonia is leading the way here; people vote digitally from home without security risks. If this is not possible in other countries, then I have my doubts about the security of other digital applications
Estonia is the best example of far-reaching digitization of public and private services. Not only the usual municipal services, but also applying for building permits, registering for schools, health affairs, banking, taxes, police, and voting. All these things happen via one digital platform - X-road – that meets the highest security requirements. Data is stored in a decentral way via end-to-end encryption using blockchain technology. Citizens manage their own data.
More than voting
There is a widespread desire among citizens for greater involvement in political decision-making. This includes referenda and popular assemblies, which still take place in Swiss municipalities. But there is little room here for the exchange of views, let alone discussion. Moreover, several authors try to improve direct democracy by bypassing the role of political parties. In his book Against elections (2013), the Flemish political scientist David van Reybrouck proposes appointing representatives based on weighted lottery. A lottery alone does not yet provide a representative group, because never more than 10% of the chosen people respond to the invitation. What remains is a predominantly indigenous group, over 50 years of age with higher education, interested in politics.
The strength of citizens' forums is that they enable deliberation between independent citizens rather than representatives of political parties, who are bound in every way by coalition agreements.
Van Reybrouck’s ideas have been adopted in different ways and in different places, but always as a complement to representative democracy. Citizens' forums have achieved good results in Ireland. There are also several examples in the Netherlands. The biggest bottleneck has been the acceptance of the results by established political bodies. In April 2021, a committee led by Alex Brenninkmeijer advised positive about the value of citizens' forums in climate policy in an advisory report to the House of Representatives.
Another interesting option is liquid democracy. Here, like direct democracy, citizens can vote on all issues. However, they can also transfer their vote to someone else, who they believe is more involved. This person can also transfer the received mandates. With secure IT, this is easy to organize. Examples of useful apps include Adhocracy (Germany), a platform for participation, collaboration and idea generation, Licracy, a virtual people's parliament, Sovrin, an open source decentralized protocol for any kind of organization. Insights Management Tool is an application for converting opinions of a large amounts of citizens into 'insights' that can benefit politicians. I will add a few more applications, which are mainly intended for cities: EngageCitizens (many South European cities including Braga, Portugal), an application that enables citizens to submit ideas and discuss them in virtual discussion groups, Active Citizens (Moscow), an application where residents can participate in referendums, CitizenLab, a medium for citizens to discuss ideas about local issues. Finally, I refer to the comprehensive applications Decide Madrid and Decidem (Barcelona), which I have discussed elsewhere.
All these apps increase the involvement of part of the citizens in government. These are usually highly educated. Meetings are held in Madrid and Barcelona to let underprivileged residents also make their voices heard.
Due to the many and complicated tasks that city authorities must deal with and the often equally complicated decision making in the city council, it is not easy create room for decentralized citizen participation. Several cities try to improve citizen participation in political decentralization. The establishment of city districts with their own administrative bodies often leads to power struggles between central and decentralized politicians, without residents gaining more influence.
According to Jan Schrijver, the centralized administrative culture of Amsterdam the city’s ideals of citizen participation often clashes even though the impressive amount of policy instruments to promote participation: Initiating a referendum has been made more accessible, social initiatives can be subsidized, and confirmed in neighborhood rights, including the 'right to challenge' and neighborhoods have a budget of their own.
Very recently, a 'mini-citizen deliberation' was held under the leadership of Alex Brenninkmeijer on the concrete question of how Amsterdam can accelerate the energy transition. This meeting was very productive, and the participants were satisfied with the progress. It will become clear soon whether the city council will adopt the proposals.
A city of commons
Democratization is mostly conceived of as a decision-making process, the result of which the municipal organization carries out. The ultimate step of democratization, after decentralization, is autonomy: Residents not only decide on, for example, playgrounds in their neighborhood, they also ensure that these are provided. Increasingly, the latter is formally established in the right to challenge. For example, a group of residents demonstrates that they can perform a previously municipal task better and often cheaper themselves. This is a significant step on the participation ladderfrom participating in decision-making autonomy.
In Italy this process has boomed, and the city of Bologna has become a stronghold of urban commons. Citizens become designers, managers, and users of some municipal tasks. Creating green areas, converting an empty house into affordable units for students, the elderly, or migrants, operating a minibus service, cleaning, and maintaining the city walls, refurbishing parts of the public space and much more.
From 2011, commons have been given a formal status. The most important instruments in this regard are cooperation-pacts. In each pact, city authorities and the parties involved (informal groups, NGOs, schools, entrepreneurs) lay down agreements about their activities, responsibilities, and power. Hundreds of pacts have been signed since the regulation was adopted. The city provides what the citizens need - money, material, housing, advice - and the citizens make their time, skills, and organizational capacity available. In some cases, commons also have a commercial purpose, for example the revitalization of a shopping street by the entrepreneurs established there. In that case, they often unite in a cooperative.
Only a limited number of people feel attracted to talk along the lines of politics, but many more people want to do something. This is at the roots of the success of the commons-movement. This explains the success of the commons-movement in Italy and elsewhere.
Democracy after the commons
The commons-movement might influence urban governance in the longer term. The Italian political scientist Christian Iaione predicts the emergence of a city of commons. Here, all most urban tasks are performed by commons and cooperatives. The city is a network of both, decision-making is decentralized and deconcentrated.
A similar idea The city as a platform has emerged in the US coming from a completely different direction. Instead of simply voting every few years and leaving city administration to elected officials and expert bureaucrats, the networked city sees citizens as co designers, co-producers, and co-learners, according to Stefaan Verhulst, co-founder of GovLab. In the city as a platform residents look individually and collectively for new and better ways to meet their needs and enliven public life. These may be neighborhood-based initiatives, for example the redevelopment of a neighborhood or city-wide initiatives, for example cooperative of taxi drivers, competing with Uber.
Without saying it in so many words, everyone involved sees both the city of commons and the city as a platform as an opportunity to make citizens the engine of urban development again instead of multinational companies. But in view of the (financial) power of these companies, it could also turn out that they appropriate the city. We have already experienced this once when a sympathetic and democratic sharing platform such as Airbnb grew into a multinational enterprise with a far-reaching impact on urban life. For the time being, therefore, city administrators can best focus on enabling and supporting citizens' joint action to make cities more beautiful, liveable, and sustainable.
The above builds on two essays included in my e-book Cities of the Future: Always humane, smart if helpful. The first essay Strengthening Urban Democracy – The Well-Governed City elaborates on the concepts of direct democracy, decentralization and autonomy and describes digital applications for both improving services and urban democracy. The second essay Citizens' Initiatives – City of the Commons extensively examines activities in various places in the world to increase the involvement of residents in their place of residence, and in that context discusses in detail the idea behind 'commons'. The e-book can be downloaded by following the link below.
Volgende week donderdag 10 maart vindt de eerste demodag van 2022 plaats. De thema’s Energie en Circulair staan centraal, en het programma is inmiddels rond. Er staan weer mooie initiatieven en complexe vraagstukken op de planning.
Demodagen zijn onderdeel van ons innovatieproces en bedoeld om de voortgang van verschillende innovatieprojecten te stimuleren, hulpvragen op tafel te leggen, dilemma's te delen en anderen te betrekken bij projecten of uitdagingen. Meer informatie over wat de demodagen precies zijn en waarom je mee wilt doen, vind je hier.
Klinkt het programma interessant? Je bent meer dan welkom om aan te sluiten. Laat het ons weten in de comments!
SmartHoods is een holistische aanpak om zelfvoorzienende buurten te realiseren. Dit concept is ontwikkeld door Spectral, Metabolic en de VU. Florijn van Metabolic is nu bezig dit concept zelfstandig verder te brengen. Zijn missie is om de meest leefbare en duurzame wijken te realiseren en vraagt de hulp van het netwerk om hieraan bij te dragen.
Green Light District / New Bauhaus - Gemeente Amsterdam / Hogeschool van Amsterdam
Het Green Light District project is opgezet om delen van de binnenstad en de Wallen te verduurzamen. De volgende stap voltrekt zit binnen de New Bauhaus oproep van de EU-commissie. Gemeente Amsterdam vertelt waar ze nu mee bezig zijn en nodigt het netwerk uit om mee te denken.
De Circulaire Monitor - Gemeente Amsterdam
De eerste versie van de Circulaire Monitor Amsterdam is een feit! Tijdens de Week van de Circulaire Economie is deze gelanceerd. Voor het eerst hebben we een totaalbeeld van alle materialen die in, door en uit de stad stromen, inclusief lokale productie en consumptie. Daarnaast hebben we berekend wat de milieueffecten van deze materiaalstromen zijn. Een game changer in onze journey naar een circulaire stad! Welke data vind je terug in deze monitor en wat kunnen wij ermee?
De maatschappelijke kant van Smart Grids - Hogeschool van Amsterdam / Gemeente Amsterdam
Om de toenemende congestie op het energienet op te lossen, komen we met oplossingen als flexibilisering, energieopslag en energyhubs. Een slim energienet wordt nu vooral gedreven door acute problematiek. Maar hoe kunnen we deze innovaties breder maatschappelijk benutten? Wat is de sociaal-economische impact van smart grids en wat is er nodig om die te bevorderen?
Macht in de energietransitie - DRIFT
Minder macht bij grote bedrijven, meer macht voor bewonersorganisaties; hét gevolg van decentralisatie van productie en distributie, zeggenschap, eigenaarschap en winst en (overheids)sturing. Waar gaat de macht heen? Hoe wordt er met deze nieuwe macht omgegaan? En hoe kunnen we de impact ervan in goede banen leiden?
Een belangrijke stap in het verduurzamen van de regio is het circulair maken van alle technische maatregelen die voor de energietransitie worden ingezet. Denk aan windmolens, zonnepanelen, warmtepompen, of isolatiemateriaal. De angst bestaat dat een circulaire energietransitie tot vertraging of extra hoge kosten kan leiden. Toch zien we gelukkig al veel mooie initiatieven in ons netwerk en dit willen wij verder aanjagen. Waar moeten we dan beginnen?
Building a Circular Future is het tweede boek van Boardlid Jacqueline Cramer. Hiermee wil zij changemakers over de hele wereld helpen bij het opbouwen van een circulaire economie.
Het Engelstalige boek Building a Circular Future biedt inzicht in de overeenkomsten en verschillen in het wereldwijd besturen van de circulaire economie. Voor deze transitie moeten alle betrokken partners (bedrijven, overheden, niet-gouvernementele organisaties) bereid zijn om mee te werken, anders kan deze verandering niet worden doorgevoerd.
Onze bestaande consumptie- en productiepatronen zijn niet houdbaar. We verbruiken jaarlijks meer dan de aarde kan leveren. In 1970 had de bevolking het equivalent van één aarde nodig; tegenwoordig hebben wij ongeveer 1,75 aarde nodig.
Om deze problemen op te lossen moeten we afstappen van deze lineaire economie en overschakelen naar een circulaire economie. En hoewel het aantal circulaire initiatieven de laatste tijd wereldwijd toeneemt, bevindt de implementatie ervan zich nog in de beginfase. Voor deze transitie moeten alle betrokken partners (bedrijven, overheden, niet-gouvernementele organisaties) bereid zijn om mee te werken, anders kan deze verandering niet worden doorgevoerd.
Bij het schrijven van het boek heeft Cramer veel informatie gehaald uit twintig levendige interviews, waarbij de geïnterviewden vrijuit spraken over de problemen die zij tegenkomen bij het besturen van circulaire economieën en hoe deze problemen verklaard kunnen worden.
Het boek is in samenwerking met Holland Circulair Hotspot ontwikkeld en is het vervolg op het boek How Network Governance Powers the Circular Economy. Dit boek – gebaseerd op Nederlandse ervaringen – heeft Amsterdam Economic Board in 2020 uitgegeven. Hierin laat Cramer zien hoe netwerksturing de circulaire economie kan versnellen. Ook in 2022 is daaraan onverminderd behoefte, bijvoorbeeld bij ketentransities.
Als je de wc doortrekt, denk je waarschijnlijk niet na over wat er met het water gebeurt. Maar hier gaat een hele wereld achter schuil! En er wordt hard aan gewerkt, om die verborgen waterwereld duurzamer te maken. Als innovatietechnoloog bij Waternet houdt Enna zich bezig met het ontwikkelen van slimme afvalwatersystemen, en wij van De Gezonde Stad interviewden haar.
Wat is jouw droom voor Amsterdam?
“Dat water voor Amsterdammers meer waarde heeft. Dat we het meer respecteren. Nu is het zo vanzelfsprekend dat er water uit de kraan komt, zoveel en wanneer we maar willen. En we gaan naar het toilet, of onder de douche, of zetten de afwasmachine aan, en voor de bewoners is het water weg. Het zou fijn zijn als de hele cyclus meer circulair is. Dat afvalwater niet langer iets is wat vies is, maar dat we het gaan zien als een grondstof die we graag willen hergebruiken. Wat nou als je bij de bouwmarkt een toilet kan kopen die jouw urine apart houdt en daar meststof uithaalt die je zelf in je tuin kan gebruiken of af kan geven alsof het een statiegeldsysteem is. Dan krijgt het zoveel meer waarde.”
Lees op onze website het hele interview en leer de verborgen waterwereld kennen!
The 16th episode of the series Building sustainable cities - The contribution of digital technology reveals what can happen if the power of artificial intelligence is not used in a responsible manner.
The fight against crime in the United States, has been the scene of artificial intelligence’s abuse for years. As will become apparent, this is not only the result of bias. In episode 11, I discussed why artificial intelligence is a fundamentally new way of using computers. Until then, computers were programmed to perform operations such as structuring data and making decisions. In the case of artificial intelligence, they are trained to do so. However, it is still people who design the instructions (algorithms) and are responsible for the outcomes, although the way in which the computer performs its calculations is increasingly becoming a 'black box'.
Applications of artificial intelligence in the police
Experienced detectives are traditionally trained to compare the 'modus operandi' of crimes to track down perpetrators. Due to the labor-intensive nature of the manual implementation, the question soon arose as to whether computers could be of assistance. A first attempt to do so in 2012 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology resulted in grouping past crimes into clusters that were likely to have been committed by the same perpetrator(s). When creating the algorithm, the intuition of experienced police officers was the starting point. Sometimes it was possible to predict where and when a burglar might strike, leading to additional surveillance and an arrest.
These first attempts were soon refined and taken up by commercial companies. The two most used techniques that resulted are predictive policing (PredPol) and facial recognition.
In the case of predictive policing, patrols are given directions in which neighborhood or even street they should patrol at a given moment because it has been calculated that the risk of crimes (vandalism, burglary, violence) is then greatest. Anyone who behaves 'suspiciously' risks to be arrested. Facial recognition plays also an important role in this.
Both predictive policing and facial recognition are based on a "learning set" of tens of thousands of "suspicious" individuals. At one point, New York police had a database of 48,000 individuals. 66% of those were black, 31.7% were Latino and only 1% were white. This composition has everything to do with the working method of the police. Although drug use in cities in the US is common in all neighborhoods, policing based on PredPol and similar systems is focused on a few neighborhoods (of color). Then, it is not surprising that most drug-related crimes are retrieved there and, as a result, the composition of the database became even more skewed.
In these cases, 'bias' is the cause of the unethical effect of the application of artificial intelligence. Algorithms always reflect the assumptions, views, and values of their creators. They do not predict the future, but make sure that the past is reproduced. This also applies to applications outside the police force. The St. George Hospital Medical School in London has employed disproportionately many white males for at least a decade because the leather set reflected the incumbent staff. The criticized Dutch System Risk Indication System also uses historical data about fines, debts, benefits, education, and integration to search more effectively for people who abuse benefits or allowances. This is not objectionable but should never lead to 'automatic' incrimination without further investigation and the exclusion of less obvious persons.
The simple fact that the police have a disproportionate presence in alleged hotspots and are very keen on any form of suspicious behavior means that the number of confrontations with violent results has increased rapidly. In 2017 alone, police crackdowns in the US resulted in an unprecedented 1,100 casualties, of which only a limited number of whites. In addition, the police have been engaged in racial profiling for decades. Between 2004-2012, the New York Police Department checked more than 4.4 million residents. Most of these checks resulted in no further action. In about 83% of the cases, the person was black or Latino, although the two groups together make up just over half of the population. For many citizens of colour in the US, the police do not represent 'the good', but have become part of a hostile state power.
In New York, in 2017, a municipal provision to regulate the use of artificial intelligence was proposed, the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act (POST). The Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a prominent US civil rights organization, urged the New York City Council to ban the use of data made available because of discriminatory or biased enforcement policies. This wish was granted in June 2019, and this resulted in the number of persons included in the database being reduced from 42,000 to 18,000. It concerned all persons who had been included in the system without concrete suspicion.
San Francisco, Portland, and a range of other cities have gone a few steps further and banned the use of facial recognition technology by police and other public authorities. Experts recognize that the artificial intelligence underlying facial recognition systems is still imprecise, especially when it comes to identifying the non-white population.
The societal roots of crime
Knowledge of how to reduce bias in algorithms has grown, but instead of solving the problem, awareness has grown into a much deeper problem. It is about the causes of crime itself and the realization that the police can never remove them.
Crime and recidivism are associated with inequality, poverty, poor housing, unemployment, use of alcohol and drugs, and untreated mental illness. These are also dominant characteristics of neighborhoods with a lot of crime. As a result, residents of these neighborhoods are unable to lead a decent life. These conditions are stressors that influence the quality of the parent-child relationship too: attachment problems, insufficient parental supervision, including tolerance of alcohol and drugs, lack of discipline or an excess of authoritarian behavior. All in all, these conditions increase the likelihood that young people will be involved in crime, and they diminish the prospect of a successful career in school and elsewhere.
The ultimate measures to reduce crime in the longer term and to improve security are: sufficient income, adequate housing, affordable childcare, especially for 'broken families' and unwed mothers and ample opportunities for girls' education. But also, care for young people who have encountered crime for the first time, to prevent them from making the mistake again.
This will not solve the problems in the short term. A large proportion of those arrested by the police in the US are addicted to drugs or alcohol, are severely mentally disturbed, have serious problems in their home environment - if any - and have given up hope for a better future. Based on this understanding, the police in Johnson County, Kansas, have been calling for help from mental health professionals for years, rather than handcuffing those arrested right away. This approach has proved successful and caught the attention of the White House during the Obama administration. Lynn Overmann, who works as a senior advisor in the president’s technology office, has therefore started the Data-Driven Justice Initiative. The immediate reason was that the prisons appeared to be crowded by seriously disturbed psychiatric patients. Coincidentally, Johnson County had an integrated data system that stores both crime and health data. In other cities, these are kept in incomparable data silos. Together with the University of Chicago Data Science for Social Good Program, artificial intelligence was used to analyze a database of 127,000 people. The aim was to find out, based on historical data, which of those involved was most likely to be arrested within a month. This is not with the intention of hastening an arrest with predictive techniques, but instead to offer them targeted medical assistance. This program was picked up in several cities and in Miami it resulted in a 40% reduction in arrests and the closing of an entire prison.
What does this example teach? The rise of artificial intelligence caused Wire editor Chris Anderson to call it the end of the theory. He couldn't be more wrong! Theory has never disappeared; at most it has disappeared from the consciousness of those who work with artificial intelligence. In his book The end of policing, Alex Vitale concludes: Unless cities alter the police's core functions and values, use by police of even the most fair and accurate algorithms is likely to enhance discriminatory and unjust outcomes (p. 28). Ben Green adds: The assumption is: we predicted crime here and you send in police. But what if you used data and sent in resources? (The smart enough city, p. 78).
The point is to replace the dominant paradigm of identifying, prosecuting and incarcerating criminals with the paradigm of finding potential offenders in a timely manner and giving them the help, they need. It turns out that it's even cheaper. The need for the use of artificial intelligence is not diminishing, but the training of the computers, including the composition of the training sets, must change significantly. It is therefore recommended that diverse and independent teams design such a training program based on a scientifically based view of the underlying problem and not leaving it to the police itself.
This article is a condensed version of an earlier article The Safe City (September 2019), which you can read by following the link below, supplemented with data from Chapter 4 Machine learning's social and political foundationsfrom Ben Green's book The smart enough city (2020).
In the first part of the series, I explained why digital technology 'for the good' is a challenge. The second part dealt with ethical criteria behind its responsible use. In the third part I have selected important field that will benefit from the responsible application of digital technology:
16 Abuse of artificial intelligence by the police in the US. More than bias
17 How can digital tools help residents to regain ownership of the city?
18 Will MaaS reduce the use of cars?
19 Digital tools as enablers towards a circular economy
20 Smart grids: where social and digital innovation meet
21 Risks and opportunities of digitization in healthcare
22 Two 100-city missions: Ill-considered leaps forward
23 Epilogue: Beyond the smart city
The link below enables you to open all previous episodes, also in Dutch language.
Campussen en kennishubs in de metropoolregio Amsterdam zijn rijk aan onderzoeksfaciliteiten, kennis, testruimtes en geavanceerde apparatuur. Uit de gesprekken met de gemeente Amsterdam en diverse campussen zoals het Amsterdam Science Park en het Amsterdam Life Sciences District komt de aanname naar voren dat veel aanwezige faciliteiten maar voor een klein deel benut worden. Dit terwijl faciliteiten vaak een flinke investering zijn geweest voor bedrijven en kennisinstellingen. Wij zien hier een grote kans voor de MRA. Optimale benutting van faciliteiten kan onnodige investeringen voorkomen, ruimte en grondstoffen besparen en mensen uit verschillende hoeken bij elkaar brengen.
Onder de noemer ‘Project Facility Sharing in de MRA’ hebben wij deze kans verkend. Deze verkenning bestaat uit afgenomen interviews en georganiseerde bijeenkomsten. Deze verkenning is uitgewerkt in het rapport: “Facility sharing: optimale benutting van (kennis) faciliteiten in de regio”
Voor meer informatie kun je mailen naar firstname.lastname@example.org
ampus Amsterdam is het netwerk dat alle innovatiegebieden, campussen en kennislabs in de metropoolregio aan elkaar verbindt waardoor de kenniseconomie van de regio wordt versterkt.
Drinkwater is wereldwijd een schaars goed. In Nederland is onze drinkwatervoorziening gelukkig goed geregeld. En toch. Als gevolg van
onze veranderende wereld stapelen de transities op. Zekerheden die we lang voor lief namen worden omgegooid. Onze steden groeien, wat nieuwe kansen brengt, maar ook nieuwe uitdagingen. Dat betekent ook iets voor onze
drinkwatervoorziening. Ons gebruik neemt toe en het aanbod staat onder druk.
Binnen de Provincie Flevoland is men aan het onderzoeken wat er nu al voor nodig is om dit probleem een halt toe te roepen. Momenteel zien we de vraag naar drinkwater stijgen, de drukte in de ondergrond toenemen en door klimaatverandering (denk aan droogte en hete zomers) het watergebruik stijgen. Om voldoende drinkwater van een goede kwaliteit te garanderen moeten we werken aan een systeemverandering. Waterbesparing moet worden gestimuleerd en laagwaardig gebruik van hoogwaardige kwaliteit water moet worden voorkomen.
Het huidige drinkwatergebruik bestaat voor ca. 70% huishoudelijke- en 30% zakelijke gebruikers (regio afhankelijk). Hoe maken we bij deze doelgroepen waterbesparing de norm? En hoe zorgen we ervoor dat de kwaliteit van het water bepalend is voor het gebruik? Dit zijn vraagstukken die in de toekomst steeds relevanter worden, maar ook nú al onze aandacht vragen.
Halverwege maart zal er binnen de Provincie Flevoland een Adviseur Drinkwatertransitie aan de slag gaan die zich met deze vragen bezighoudt.
We vragen jou om hulp!
Samen met de Provincie Flevoland zoeken we daarom alvast de ideeën, ervaringen en het draagvlak van het netwerk op. We zijn op zoek naar actuele kennis over dit onderwerp en mogelijke oplossingen. Daarnaast zijn we ook specifiek geïnteresseerd in ideeën om nu al urgentie te creëren voor dit onderwerp, ondanks dat het mogelijk pas in de toekomst gaat spelen.
Ben jij een expert op het thema, of heb jij relevante ideeën en ervaringen uit andere onderwerpen? Laat je reactie achter in de comments!
On 10 and 17 March the 15th edition of our Demo Days will take place. Not only are the Demo Days open for our community, but we also offer you the opportunity to pitch your innovative initiative during the event. We want to involve our community more in the activities that we regularly organise, as you are an important part of the Amsterdam Smart City innovation ecosystem. That said, it’s also important to share some more background information about instruments like the Demo Days, that we use to boost innovation. Last year we told you a bit more about our instrument The Transition Days. This time, we’ll tell you all about the Demo Days. What are they and why would you want to participate?
The Demo Days are one of the tools we use to stimulate innovation and encourage connection between our partners and community. The purpose of the Demo Days is to present the progress of various innovation projects to each other, ask for help, share dilemmas and involve more partners in a project to take these projects to the next level.
We have created the Demo Days as a safe place for asking input from the network. A fresh perspective from another professional can be exactly what you need to move forward. You cannot work on a transition alone, which is why it’s important to involve others in your process.
The Demo Days are hosted a couple of times a year, usually every 2 to 3 months. We always combine two of our four themes: energy, circular city, mobility and digital. We start with the so-called inspiring 'pitches' with a short request for help for the entire group, followed by separate work sessions in which we work on some more complex questions thoroughly with a small group.
The vibe is inspiring, constructive and uplifting. Using everyone's specific background and expertise.
The first Demo Days we hosted in 2019 were just for our partner network. But as I said in the intro, we want to involve our community more in our activities. Therefore, we regularly communicate about when these events take place, the program and the recap afterwards. Giving you a chance to participate and learn from the knowledge that was shared.
Are you joining us?
For the upcoming Demo Days and each subsequent, we would like to offer you the opportunity to take the stage as one of the pitches.
Are you working on an innovative project that could use some input? Or are you preparing for an inspiring event that needs a spotlight?
If it fits within our themes, sent a message via email@example.com or let us know in the comments. We are happy to talk with you to find out if it's a match!
As soon as the program is determined, we will share it on the platform and give you the opportunity to join as participant.
The 15th episode of the Better cities - The contribution of digital technology- series is about collaboration between Dutch cities within the City Deals in the Agenda stad en regio project.
Over the past years, the interest Dutch municipalities in digitization at urban level has increased, partly because of the initiating role of the VNG, G40, the Future City Foundation and forerunners such as Apeldoorn, Helmond, and Zwolle as well. Initially, these were small-scale and isolated projects. In this post, I'll discuss two projects that aim at scaling through collaboration.
A mission-driven approach to public sector projects
In her new book, Mission Economy, Mariana Mazzucato advocates a mission-driven approach to public sector projects at the local level in the way that a man was put on the moon. She refers at large-scale projects with a high degree of complexity, such as the energy transition, the construction of affordable housing, the well-being of the poor part of the population and the conservation of nature.
What is a mission-driven approach? At first, it includes an ambitious vision, followed by breaking down silos within the governmental organization, collaboration within the quadruple helix, and cooperation between higher and lower governments.
A mission-driven approach is appropriate for the major transitions facing the world and digitization as a part of these. The following pertains to a couple of projects that aim at such an approach. The first, Agenda city and region has been running for some time and will be dealt with extensively. The other is initiated by G40 will be discussed briefly.
Agenda stad and City deals
In Agenda city and region, cities, governments at different levels, companies, and organizations, including the VNG, G4, G40 and Platform31, work together to drive innovation in cities. The mission is summarized in SDG 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. The most important instrument are City Deals: collaborative ventures around a themes.
The first City Deals started in 2016, there are now 27, about half of which have been completed, but six new ones are about to start. 125 municipalities, 8 provinces, 9 ministries, 10 other government agencies, 5 water boards, more than 100 companies, 30 knowledge institutions and more than 20 other partnerships are involved. There are now 14 partnerships with municipalities outside the Netherlands.
Examples of City Deals are: Working and doing business across borders, cleantech, food on the urban agenda, local resilience against cybercrime, inner city building, the inclusive city, and smart city, that's how you do it. The latter will be discussed below.
Within a City Deal, the parties involved work together in their own way on concrete products, ranging from legislation to policy instruments. The main principles are:
- Formulating an ambition and a strategy.
- Enabling scaling through cooperation between and/or within (urban) regions.
- Realizing collaboration between public and private parties, including the central government
- Innovating by realizing new forms of problem-solving.
- Scaling up, also across national borders.
City Deals also work together and new deals are created from among them, such as ‘Smart customization', a new City Deal that arises from the existing City Deals 'Simple customization' and 'Smart city, that is how you do it'. If I had to imagine how a moonshot works, which I referred to in the introduction of this article, then Agenda city and region could be a good example.
City deal 'A smart city, this is how you do it'
The goal of this City Deal, as we read in the annual report, is to use digitization to tackle the major challenges facing Europe and the Netherlands, such as poverty, social cohesion, and insecurity, and to achieve a society in which everyone can live in freedom. 60 parties are now involved in this City Deal.
The aim is to change at least 12 processes by which regions, cities and towns are designed, organized, managed, and governed, and to make the most of the opportunities offered by digitization. The starting point is the existing practice and aimed at matching city’s demands.
The City Deal 'Smart city, this is how you do it', has 14 working groups. Each of those have chosen which a process to tackle, on the understanding that three municipalities must be prepared to test the results and can be scaled eventually. The City Deal 'A smart city, this is how you do it' has been underway for almost two years now, and the processes to be tackled have crystallized. In a few cases prototypes are ready, most are under development. Below is a brief description of the situation on November 15th, 2021. A lively description of some participants’ experience can be read in ROMmagazine, volume 39, no. 11.
1. Open urban data platform
This project is developing a procedure for tendering an open data platform, which is shareable and scalable, in which privacy and data autonomy are guaranteed and that offers sufficient precautions for cybersecurity. The result will be a step-by-step plan, in which technical questions (what it will looks like), legal questions (who is the owner) and financial questions (funding) are discussed.
2. Cookbook for effective data strategy
This project develops a procedure for the acquisition and storage of data. A 'data cookbook' has been developed that supports the collection, storage, and application of data. It offers an 11-step plan from the formulation of a measurable questions to the interpretation of the measurement results. It accentuates the importance to make explicit the assumptions behind the selection of data. The usability of the steps is tested in practice. A first concept can be found here.
3. Smart initiatives test
The aim of this project is to allow initiators (citizens, companies) to make optimal use of available public data, including those that will be provided by the DSO (digitaal stelsel omgevingswet). The DSO will provide information about which rules apply at a specific location and ultimately also about the quality of the physical living environment itself. Ideally, the ‘smart initiatives test’ will collect and optimize all data needed for a plan. The project group is currently investigating which types of (geo) data users need most ('usercases').
4. Sensor data and privacy
The aim of the project is to develop a tool that allows a municipality to tender for the installation of sensors that exactly match the type of data that will be collected and that consider ethical questions and GDPR rules.
5. Design of the new city
The growing availability of various types of (real-time) data, for example about air quality and noise pollution) has implications for the way in which cities and neighborhoods are developed. The working group is developing a canvas that functions as a ‘translator' of available data. The starting point for its development was a matrix with as inputs the phases of the design process (initiative, design and realization phase) and the area type (urban, Randstad and suburban area). This matrix must indicate which data is needed at what time. The usability will be tested through pilots.
6. Everyone (and everything) a sensor
Citizen measurement initiatives (via telephones and with sensors attached to bicycles, cars, and homes) have a double goal: to increase citizen’s involvement and to improve the insight into living environment of those who execute the measurement. It can also contribute to behavioral change, especially if the measurements match the needs of residents and they are also involved in the interpretation of the results. The working group is striving for a roadmap based on several user cases.
7. Local measurement: comparing projects
Measuring data locally – as was done in the previous project – may be redundant if data from elsewhere is available. In that case, comparability is required with data being searched for and standardization is needed to enable such a comparison. However, standardization can lead to mistrust and remove the incentive for resident groups to get started themselves. Ultimately, the working group opts for the development of a self-service portal, which will be developed together with the Healthy Urban Living Data and Knowledge Hub. Resident groups can then choose for themselves to participate in a standardized project that reads their measurement results directly or for a 'do-it-yourself' solution. A manual will be written for this last option.
Both projects are being further developed in collaboration with Eurocities, a network of 190 cities in 38 countries, under the name CitiMeasure - using citizen measurement to create smart, sustainable and inclusive cities.
8. Smart mobility: Towards a safe and sustainable city
Digitization in traffic has already taken off, for example by intelligent traffic systems (IVRIs), but usually the existing situation, for example private use of cars, is the starting point. The question is how to connect to the pursuit of a better quality of life. To this end, the working group has chosen three themes: better accessibility for emergency services, shared mobility, and city logistics.
A step-by-step plan is being developed for emergency services, with which municipalities can realize the necessary facilities to always priorize emergency vehicles – and possibly other target groups as well.
If everyone were to travel with the most suitable means of transport at that time (varying from walking, (shared) bicycle or scooter, public transport to (shared) car, private car use would decrease considerably and thus improve the quality of city live. Additionally, the working group is developing a 'map' to encourage shared mobility, which provides answers to all related questions.
Developments in city logistics are already taking place via other routes. Therefore, the contribution of the working group in this regard will be limited.
9. A business model for the smart city
New forms of collaboration between governments, the business community, knowledge institutions and citizens can result in new 'values' for areas, but also to the need to allocate costs and benefits in a different way. A new 'business model' may then be necessary. To this end, the working group is investigating the consequences for companies and organizations of entering partnerships for the successful development of products and services. This compared to more traditional client/contractor relationships.
10 Ethical Boards
Within the City Deal 'A smart city, this is how you do it', a rule is that digital instruments to be developed always comply with ethical principles. The implications of such principles are often situational. That is why municipalities are setting up an 'ethical board', which includes experts and residents. To support its work, the committee wants to create a knowledge platform that informs which ethical principles or tools suit best for different digitization projects.
11 Model Acquisition
Local authorities want to regulate the use of digital tools such as sensors in public spaces. Anita Nijboer, who works as a lawyer at Kennedy Van der Laan, who is also a partner of the City Deal 'Smart city, this is how you do it', has drawn up a model regulation for this purpose, which has already been tested in Rotterdam and Helmond. The most important learning effect is that departments within a municipality have fundamentally different view of the way in which these types of questions should be legally framed. In response to this, the working group is examining the question of whether a model regulation is an appropriate answer to obtaining consent for the use of digital tools.
12 Dealing with crowds in the city
Measuring (too large) crowds in parts of the city was a problem long before corona times. The aim is to develop a digital model ('digital twin') of the city - a so-called crowd safety manager - that provides real-time insight into pedestrian flows and concentrations. Such a model must also be able to communicate with people in the city. A prototype of a dashboard, developed by partner company Argaleo, is now being used in 's-Hertogenbosch, Breda and The Hague. This instrument does not use any personal data. It is being further developed at European level with external subsidies.
The instruments to be developed and existing instruments have been brought together via a website, the Toolbox. Other City Deals also develop knowledge, which is far from being systematically documented. That is why the best way to distribute this knowledge is investigated together with the Knowledge Lab for Urbanism.
G40: Smart sustainable urbanization
In March 2021, G40, the umbrella organization of 40 medium-sized municipalities, submitted a project proposal to promote digitalization and thus also create opportunities to the business community.
The project plan rejects the current approach of 'smart urbanization' and the realization of 'main social tasks'. Decentralization, broadening of tasks, narrowing of implementation funds and a fragmented central government policy have led to an impeding control gap and financing deficit in municipalities. Instead, a bundled approach is wanted, led by representatives of municipalities and central government, and the latter is being asked to invest € 1 billion.
When studying this plan, I was surprised by the absence of any reference to the activities of Agenda city and regioand the City Deals. Instead, one wonders whether Agenda city and region is the subject of criticism of the fragmented approach and G40 wants to get rid of it.
The strength of Agenda city and region is the cross connections between urban projects of all kinds, the involvement of citizens and intermunicipal cooperation. This is something to cherish.
In my opinion, G40 would be better off by ushering in a new phase of Agenda city and region, characterized by economies of scale and acceleration of the findings so far. The aims of this new phase could be consolidation of the cohesion between the themes of the individual City Deals within the framework of the major transitions facing the Netherlands. The theme of digitization thrives best in this context. After all, the ultimate value of digitization lies in the contribution to the energy transition, the reduction of traffic nuisance and the growth of a circular economy, to name a few examples. However, that requires a different plan.
In the meantime, I hope that in the foreseeable future we will be able to see the results of the working groups of the City Deal 'Smart city, this is how you do it', together with those of the other 'Deals'.
Follow the link below to find one of the previous episodes or see which episodes are next, and this one for the Dutch version.
One of the key priorities of the European Commission is to support the twin transition to a green and digital economy. One way the Commission is shaping this transition is by co-creating transition pathways for more resilient, green and digital industrial ecosystems, across different sectors.
Within the scope of the Intelligent Cities Challenge, Amsterdam Region contributed to a stakeholder consultation session on 9 February 2022. Mirko van Vliet, Amsterdam Economic Board Strategic Advisor shared the region’s experience using future scenarios as a tool for assessing developments in inherently unpredictable and complex systems. In this approach, scenarios are not forecasts but alternative images of how the future can unfold. The approach can be used to stimulate discussion and action around key opportunities, threats, driving forces and no regret measures to achieve a desired vision.
Beyond visions, achieving the digital and green transition requires concrete initiatives. Mirko shared the example of LEAP, a coalition of the willing that aims to speed up the transition to a sustainable digital infrastructure by deploying and accelerating existing and new technologies. One of the topics explored within LEAP is the possibility of shifting away from hyper-scale, monolithic data-centers to more flexible, distributed and disaggregated infrastructures. LEAP exemplifies Amsterdam Economic Board's approach to building a robust ecosystem through multi-stakeholder collaboration in order to transition the data-center and digital infrastructure value chains.
Would you like to help shape the transition pathways for more resilient, greener and digital industrial ecosystems? The Commission is inviting all interested stakeholders to co-create transition pathways for three sectors / ecosystems:
- Proximity & social economy ecosystem, consultation closes February 28
- Construction ecosystem, consultation closes February 28
- Mobility ecosystem, consultation closes March 31
Based on the results of these consultations, the Commission will organise further meetings with stakeholders to finalise the various pathways in 2022.
For more information visit: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/consultations_en
A link to a larger reproduction is here.
In the 14th episode of the Better cities - The contribution of digital technology-series, I investigate the digitization policy of the municipality of Amsterdam based on the guidelines and ethical principles formulated earlier.
25 years ago, Amsterdam Digital City was a frontrunner in access to public internet. Now the city wants to lead the way as a free, inclusive, and creative digital city. How the municipality wants to do this is described for the first time in the memorandum A digital city for and by everyone (2019). A year later in the Digital City Agenda (2020), the goals have been reformulated into three spearheads: (1) responsible use of data and technology (2) combating digital inequality and (3) the accessibility of services. These three spearheads resulted in a series of concrete activities, of which a first evaluation was submitted to the municipal council in 2021. 'Protecting digital rights' has been added to the three spearheads. The illustration above is mentioning the four spearheads and the 22 activities.
This article is looking closer at Amsterdam’s digitalization policy by examining how it relates to the guidelines and ethical principles for digitization, which I compiled in the 9th edition. Because of the overlap, I have merged these into one list (see HERE), named Principles for socially responsible digitization policy. This list contains eight principles, each accompanied by a non-exhaustive set of guidelines. For each of these principles, I examine what Amsterdam has achieved until now. The numbers after the principles below refer to one or more of the 22 activities mentioned above. I add an example from outside Amsterdam to each principle.
1. Embedding (1, 4)
The digital agenda is part of a democratically established and coherent urban agenda.
• The Municipality of Amsterdam is building a broad knowledge network in the field of responsible use of data and digital technology together with AMS Institute, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Waag Society, and others. This network will conduct research into the impact of technology on the city.
In 2017, the Foresight Lublin 2050 project was launched in the Polish city of Lublin to define opportunities and threats related to socio-economic, environmental, and technological development. Its mission is that decisions about technology should be made based on the real needs of residents and should be involved in the design and implementation of policies. As part of the democratic nature of decision-making in Lublin, residents determine the allocation of budget resources.
2. Equality, inclusiveness, and social impact (16, 17, 19, 20)
Making information and communication technology accessible to everyone
• The Municipality of Amsterdam is making public services accessible, understandable, and usable for everyone, online and offline. Research among low-literate target groups has provided clues to reach these goals.
• The Online Implementation Agenda provides information about current policy (volg.amsterdam.nl). Mijn Amsterdamprovides information about neighborhood-level projects and opportunities to participate in them.
• Vulnerable citizens will find hardware to use the Internet in several places and free Wi-Fi is also available. Several thousand laptops have been distributed.
• The development of digital skills is supported together with social partners. For example, a 'train-the-trainer' program has been carried out with Cybersoek and the Public Library will introduce all visitors in the coming years to the themes of data literacy and digital freedom.
• Through the partnership with TechConnect 50,000 extra people from underrepresented groups are made aware of the technology labor market.
• The municipality considers the roll-out of the 5G network desirable but is following critical research into the health risks of this network. The 5G Field lab is used to study the applications of 5G and their importance for residents.
Barcelona and Madrid are forerunners regarding of digital participation, thanks to their resp. networks Decide and Decide Madrid. Residents use these networks on a large scale as a source of information and to participate in discussions and (advisory) voting. Much of what the city council discusses came up through these forums.
3. Justice (2, 15, 20)
Prevent that the application of digital systems results in concentration and abuse of power.
• The Amsterdam Intelligence Agenda sets conditions for algorithms to prevent discrimination. Partly in this context, several algorithms will be audited annually, and algorithms will be placed in a register.
• The Civic AI Lab will explore the (unintended) implications of algorithms related to unequal treatment and discrimination.
• An exploration of the best way to provide low-threshold access has been launched for the domains of care and education.
With its 116-page Strategy for the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI), New York focuses on using AI to better serve residents, building AI know-how within government, modernizing data infrastructure, city policy on AI, developing partnerships with external organizations and promoting equal opportunities.
4. Human Dignity (20)
Prevent technology from alienating people from their unique qualities and instead ensure that it stimulates their fulfillment.
• The 'Modere overheid’ program investigates how digitization can support different domains of the municipal organization. Examples are better matching of job seekers and work, helping 18-year-olds manage their finances, (early) identification of people with debts, providing information about cleaning and management of the city.
The Database of ‘Affordable Housing Listings, Information, and Applications’ allows San Francisco residents to search the entire range of affordable housing and express their interest through a simple, multi-lingual form. A candidate resident is selected from the submitted applications by drawing lots, who then submits a more detailed application. The procedure has been developed entirely in open-source software and other cities are joining this initiative.
5. Autonomy and privacy (3, 5, 6, 14, 15)
Recognition of human autonomy and the right to reside and move in public space without being observed digitally
• The municipality has established a data strategy that gives residents more control over their own data.
• The municipality works with other municipalities on data minimization via the IRMA app. Via this app residents can pass on damage reports. In the future, this app can form the basis for making available a digital identity to all citizens.
• The Responsible Sensing Lab investigates privacy-friendly methods to collect data in a responsible way using sensing. The mmWave sensor, for example, measures crowds without collecting personal data.
• A register maps installed sensors. A sensor regulation will make it mandatory to register sensors in the public space.
To protect residents' privacy, Seattle's government has taken a series of steps that make the city an undisputed frontrunner in this regard. The city has appointed a chief privacy officer, established a set of guiding privacy principles, and established a privacy advisory committee composed of both citizens and government officials. An important part is the implementation of a privacy impact assessment every time the municipality develops a new project in which personal data is collected.
6. Open data, open software, and interoperability (9, 13, 18)
Data architecture, including standards, agreements and norms aimed at reusing data, programs and technology and preventing lock-in.
• The municipal policy regarding open data is 'open, unless. The urban platform data.amsterdam.nl attracts 2500 unique visitors per day.
• The municipality's sourcing and open-source strategy establishes the reuse of existing resources, the use of standards and the availability of software developed by the municipality.
• Together with knowledge institutions and companies, the municipality is developing the Amsterdam Data Exchange, in which the parties involved regulate which data they exchange. Agreements have been made with the Central Dutch Statistics Office (CBS) about making data available.
• The Tada principles are the starting points for responsible data use. They regulate the authority of the users and determine the use of data and that it is open and transparent. It is envisaged that other Amsterdam institutions and companies will also adopt these principles.
• Residents can view their personal data via My Amsterdam. This also applies to entrepreneurs.
To support startups, the Seoul City Council has developed My Neighborhood Analysis, a tool that contains an unprecedented amount of commercial information. This includes datasets from Seoul's entire business ecosystem, such as business licenses, ownership information, rental rates, and transportation ticket data. When users enter information about the proposed business type, they get an overview of business performance in the neighborhood to be explored and an indication of the expected level of risk for a new business. Users can select peer companies to understand their historical performance.
7. Safety (7, 9)
Preventing and combating internet crime and limiting its consequences.
• The municipality has drawn up a Digital Safety Agenda, partly aimed at keeping vital infrastructure in operation.
The municipality of The Hague has developed an IoT security monitor together with Cybersprint. It provides a real-time overview of all connected IoT devices within the city limits with detailed information such as their whereabouts and level of risk. The monitor has so far identified 3100 unsafe devices in The Hague. Usually, insecure devices don't use password or default passwords or outdated software.
8. Operational and Financial Sustainability (12, 20, 21)
Guaranteeing a reliable, robust Internet
• The municipality is in permanent consultation with the Internet and telephone providers to guarantee the stability of the networks.
Rolling out the fiber digital infrastructure accounts for 90% of the total cost. A "Dig Once" policy aims to reduce these costs through collaboration with stakeholders. In the case of new construction, the aim is to carry out all cable and pipeline work in one go, preferably by constructing a small, easily accessible tunnel under the sidewalk or street. This considerably increases the operational reliability of all (digital) facilities. With existing buildings, all maintenance and replacement work should be carried out in one go too.
As can be expected, various bottlenecks arise in the implementation of the digital policy in Amsterdam. After all, this is a fast process involving many parties and interests, while technological developments are rapid. A lot of work still must be done in several areas gain support, both within the municipal apparatus, and with companies, organizations and inhabitants. This includes the Tada principles, compliance with the municipal sourcing strategy, the 'open unless' policy and the data minimization policy. There is also work to be done to develop a reliable digital infrastructure and to counteract (unintended) effects when using artificial intelligence. Increasing digital self-reliance and creating the preconditions for all residents to participate digitally requires structural embedding and financing.
In my opinion, the municipality of Amsterdam has made great strides in the field of privacy (5) and open data (6). The biggest challenges are in the following areas (the numbers refer to the principles formulated by me):
• Embedding of the digitization policy in the other policy areas (1).
• Availability of Internet, computers, and digital skills for vulnerable groups (2).
• Use of digital means to increase the participation of the population in policy development and formulation (2).
• Conditions of workers in the gig economy (3).
• Oversight of the AI systems that make autonomous judgments about people (4).
• Fight against cybercrime (7).
• Future-proof infrastructure (8).
In the next episode I will shift the focus to digitizing activities of other Dutch municipalities.
The link below opens a preliminary overview of the already published and upcoming articles in the series Better cities: the contribution of digital technology. Click HERE for the Dutch version.
YIMBY Arnhem! is a bottom-up movement aiming at small scale food growing in the city of Arnhem (NL). The 10 ten years of green YIMBY Arnhem! experience shows the fun and cooperation of growing food in the city. The YIMBY experience also shows that in time small initiatives grow to major results in empowering green people in the city. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in a fully circular and sustainable city?
Around the world, cities are testing out real-life solutions to urban challenges in small open innovation ecosystems that allow them to demonstrate circular principles in action.
Learn more about how cities are embracing experimentation.
Amsterdam is inviting universities, companies and members of the public to come up with solutions to improve bike safety in the Dutch capital through an open challenge.
The central theme of the competition – “Different speeds on bicycle paths” – aims to influence the behaviour of road users and asks how bike delivery services, and differences in speed bicycle types can impact this.
Applications are open until February 24, with the winner set to be announced on April 11.
On 10 and 17 March the first Amsterdam Smart City Demo Days of 2022 will take place. This 15th edition will be online, and our themes are matched up again:
10 March: Circular & Energy
17 March: Digital & Mobility
What are the Amsterdam Smart City Demo Days?
Several times a year we host Demo Days. These days are part of our innovation process and intended to boost the progress of the various innovation projects, put requests for help on the table, share dilemmas and involve others in your projects or challenges. In small groups we work on concrete questions. We organize workshops with our partners to help them move forward in their process. All in a very positive, open and cheerful vibe. Invitations are sent to our partner network, but we're always open to adding a few new names to the list.
During these days, we also give the stage to community members to pitch projects and ask for input.
That’s where you come in!
Are you working on an innovative project that could use some input? Or are you preparing for an inspiring event that needs a spotlight?
If it fits within our themes, sent a message via email@example.com or let us know in the comments. We would be happy to talk with you to find out if it's a match!
In the 13th episode of the Better cities -The contribution of digital technology-series I will continue the description of applications of digital technology and their evaluation based on relevant ethical principles treated in episode 9. Episode 12 discussed: (1) Internet of Things, (2) robotics, and (3) biometrics. Below, I will cover (4) Immersive technology (augmented and virtual reality), (5) blockchain and (6) platforms. By way of conclusion, I return to the implications of all these applications for governance.
The ethical principles mentioned in chapter 9 are: privacy, autonomy, security, control, human dignity, justice, and power relations.
4. Immersive technology (augmented and virtual reality)
Augmented reality adds information to our perception. The oldest examples are messages that pilots of super-fast fighter planes could read on their glasses, so that they eyes without interruption could follow their "target". Its most popular application is the game Pokémon Go. Additional information via the smartphone screen is also often available when visiting 'places of interest'. The infamous Google Glasses were an excellent tool for this purpose but due to the obvious risk of privacy violations their application soon came to an end. This is unfortunate for certain groups, for example the hearing impaired.
Virtual reality goes much further by replacing our sensory perception by images of an artificial world. This requires a special helmet, such as the oculus rift. Applications mainly find their way through gaming. But it is also possible to show the interior of a house in three dimensions or to take a virtual walk through a neighborhood that is yet to be built.
A primitive form of virtual reality was Second live, in which the screen gave access to an alternative reality, in which your avatar communicates with others’. That could go a long way, like someone who reported being raped by a fellow avatar. Nowadays, the capabilities of augmented reality are expanding rapidly. Think of a virtual space where the user meets others to converse, listen, or to do whatever.
Augmented reality takes you to the metaverse, which was first described by Neil Stephenson in his dystopian book Snow Crash in 1992. As the power of computers grew, the idea of the metaverse gained new impetus and recently Marc Zuckerberg announced that his new company Meta Platforms will gradually turn Facebook into a fully digital world. This immerses the users in the most diverse experiences, which they partly evoke themselves, such as communicating with other avatars, attending a concert, going to the disco, and getting acquainted with strangers and of course going to shops, because it remains a medium to make money.
Only recently, Microsoft has also announced that it would bring its operating system (Windows), web servers (Azure), communication networks (Teams and Linkedin) hardware (HoloLens), entertainment (Xbox) and IP (Minecraft) together in a virtual reality. The recent €60 billion-acquisition of game producer Activision Blizzard, producer of the Call of Duty video games, fits in with this policy and indicates that the company expects to make a lot of money with its version of the metaverse.
In the expected struggle between the titans, Amazon will probably join in and build the virtual mall of and for everyone's dreams.
It remains to be seen whether a younger generation, less consumer-addicted and more concerned about nature, is waiting for a completely artificial world. I hope not.
The risks of augmented reality have been widely mentioned from the start. For example, for research purposes, Google had been given the right to remotely track the movements of the eyes of people wearing Google glasses. For the rest, it is not only governments and companies that will spy on people, but above all people will spy on each other.
After a short time, those who move through the metaverse develop balance problems. Worse is that the risk of addiction is high.
There is a danger that people who frequently dwell in imaginary worlds can no longer distinguish fake and real and alienate from themselves in the 'real' world and lose the social skills that are necessary in it.
Big Tech is getting even more tools to analyze our preferences and influence us, including through deep fakes, which can imitate existing people in real life. This raises questions about the risks that citizens run, and about the even greater role of companies that offer immersive technology.
Blockchain makes it possible to record transactions (of money, securities, contracts, and objects) without the mediation of an authorized body (government, employer, bank, notary). The first version of blockchain was bitcoin, initially only intended for financial transactions. Today, there are hundreds of variants, of which Ethereum is the most widely used.
The essence of blockchain is that the database of all transactions, the ledger, is stored on everyone's computer and is therefore accessible to every user. Miners ensure that a cryptocurrency is only used for one transaction or that a contract is not changed afterwards by one of the parties involved. Once most miners have approved a series of transactions, these transactions together form an unchangeable block.
Miners are eager to approve blocks, because whoever turns out to have done so first will receive a significant fee in cryptocurrency. Mining takes time and, above all, requires a huge amount of computing power and therefore energy. Alternative methods are diligently sought, such as a method that mainly concerns the reputation of the miner.
Blockchain stems from a drive for radical decentralization and reduction of the power of states, banks, and companies. That has worked out differently in practice. It is mainly governments and large companies in the US, Russia, China, South Korea, and the Netherlands, for example Albert Heijn, that are ensuring a steady increase.
As a means of securely storing transactions and recording mutual obligations, as in the case of digital autonomous organizations and smart contacts, blockchain has more potential than as a cryptocurrency. An absolute precondition is finding an alternative for the high consumption of energy.
Blockchain grew out of the pursuit of escaping the ubiquitous eavesdropping enterprises and state. That is why dubious transactions are preferably handled with cryptocurrency. There is no complete anonymity, because cryptocurrency must be regularly exchanged for official money,
Perhaps more human autonomy comes into its own in blockchain than in any other system. For this it is necessary to know how it works well. This is all the truer in the case of non-financial transactions.
There are certain risks: The moment a miner has more than 50% of the computer capacity, it can completely corrupt the system. This situation is not imaginary. In 2019, there were two Chinese miners who together owned more than the half of computer capacity.
Not much is known about the position of miners. There is a tendency towards ever-increasing concentration, which carries dangers about the sustainability of the system. As concentration increases, cryptocurrency holdings will also become increasingly skewed. After all, it is the miners who ensure the expansion of the available amount of money.
6. Digital platforms
Companies such as Amazon, Uber and Airbnb represent a new form of economic activity that has far-reaching consequences for other companies and urban life. They essentially consist of digital platforms that bring providers and consumers together.
Imagine you are in Amazon's virtual fitting room. You sit on a chair and a series of models pass by all of which exactly have your figure and size and maybe also your appearance. You can vary endlessly what they are wearing, until you have found or put together the outfit of your dreams. This can apply to all conceivable purchases, up to cars, including a driving simulator. With the push of a button, it is ordered and a few hours later the drone drops your order at your doorstep.
Digital platforms bring together a range of digital technology applications, such as Internet of Things, robotics, immersive technology, artificial intelligence and blockchain, to monitor the immense flows of goods and services.
In the world of platforms, privacy is of little or no importance. Companies want to earn as much as possible from you and therefore collect masses of information about your behavior, preferences, and expenses. This in exchange for convenience and free gadgets such as navigation, search engines and email.
Some platforms are part of the sharing economy. They enable direct transactions between people and, as in the case of Airbnb, provide an unprecedented range of accommodations from which to choose.
Employees in platform companies often have poor labor conditions. For example, Uber drivers are followed, checked, and assessed all day long. In distribution centers, all remaining human actions are prescribed down to the minute.
In these companies, a large gap arises between the small inner circle of managers and technicians and the large outer circle of "contractors" that the company has nothing to do with and who have nothing to do with the company.
These companies also contribute to widening the gap between rich and poor; the unprecedentedly large earnings go to top management and shareholders and, where possible, tax is avoided.
Platforms like Airbnb make it possible to distort competition on a large scale; the accommodations they rent out do not comply with the safety and tax rules that apply to regular companies.
The growth of platforms that have taken on monopolistic forms is the major cause of urban disruption without contributing to the costs it entails for the community.
Back to governance
In the previous articles, I have elaborated a framework for dealing with digitization in a socially responsible manner. Two lines of thought developed in this, that of the value of digital technology and that of its ethical use.
The value of digital technology
Digital technology must be given shape and content as one of the tools with which a city works towards an ecologically and socially sustainable future. To help articulate what such a future means, I introduced Kate Raworth's ideas about the donut economy. The design of a vision of the future must be a broadly supported democratic process, in which citizens also test the solution of their inclining problems against the sustainable prosperity of future generations and that of people elsewhere in the world.
The most important question when it comes to (digital) technology is therefore which (digital) technological tools contribute to the realization of a socially and ecologically sustainable city?
The ethical use of technology
In the world in which we try to realize the sustainable city of the future, digital technology is developing rapidly, in the fort place under the influence of commercial and political interests. Cities are confronted with these technologies through powerful smart city technology marketing.
The most important question for cities to ask is How do we assess available technologies from an ethical perspective.
In the government of cities, both trains of thought come together: Together, the answers to these questions can lead to the choice, design, and application of digital techniques as part of the realization of a vision for an ecologically and socially sustainable future of the city.
In the next two articles I examine how ethical principles are dealt with in practice. In the first article I will put Amsterdam in the spotlight and next, I look at how several municipalities are digitizing responsibly in the context of the Agenda stad.
The link below opens an overview of all published and future articles in this series.
Het AI, Media & Democracy Lab, een samenwerking van UvA, HvA en CWI, krijgt een subsidie van 2.1 miljoen euro toegekend binnen de NWO-call ‘Mensgerichte AI voor een inclusieve samenleving – naar een ecosysteem van vertrouwen’. Hiermee gaan onderzoekers in de zogenoemde ELSA Labs zich samen met mediabedrijven en culturele instellingen inzetten om de kennis over de ontwikkeling en de toepassing van betrouwbare, mensgerichte AI te vergroten.
In totaal honoreert NWO in deze call vijf aanvragen; bij elkaar gaat het om meer dan 10 miljoen. HvA-lectoren Nanda Piersma en Tamara Witschge en Hoofddocent Responsible AI Pascal Wiggers hebben zich hier - samen met vele anderen - tot het uiterste voor ingespannen.
Het AI, Media & Democracy ELSA Lab is een van de gehonoreerde projecten binnen de categorie Economie, Binnenlands bestuur en Cultuur & Media, en onderzoekt de impact van AI op de democratische functie van media. Samen met journalisten, mediaprofessionals, designers, burgers, collega-onderzoekers en publieke en maatschappelijke partners, ontwikkelt en test het lab waarde-gedreven, mensgerichte AI-toepassingen en ethische en juridische kaders voor verantwoord gebruik van AI.
Doel van het Lab is het stimuleren van innovatieve AI-toepassingen die de democratische functie van media versterken. Er wordt samengewerkt met partners als RTL, DPG Media, NPO, Beeld en Geluid, Media Perspectives, NEMO Kennislink, Waag Society, Gemeente Amsterdam, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties, Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap, Commissariaat van de Media, Hogeschool Utrecht, Universiteit Utrecht, Cultural AI Lab, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, BBC en het Bayrischer Rundfunk AI Lab.
Prof. dr. Natali Helberger , universiteitshoogleraar Law and Digital Technology aan de UvA en medeoprichter van het AI, Media & Democracy Lab: "Deze subsidie stelt ons in staat om samen met onze partners te onderzoeken hoe AI een rol kan spelen in de democratische en onafhankelijke rol van de media, de publieke sfeer en burgers die zich willen informeren. Met het AI, Media & Democracy Lab kunnen we onze bijdrage leveren aan onafhankelijke innovatie, maar ook aan het vormen van een visie op de toekomst van de media in onze digitale maatschappij."
Dr. Nanda Piersma , wetenschappelijk directeur van het Centre of Expertise Applied AI, HvA-lector Responsible IT en onderzoeker bij CWI: "We willen een verschil maken in het huidige medialandschap door samen met de mediapartners en de publieke partners AI op een verantwoorde manier in de praktijk te brengen. Deze subsidie stelt ons in staat om een experimentele ruimte te creëren waar we AI kunnen uitproberen, en bij goed resultaat ook met de partners in de praktijk te implementeren. Daarmee krijgt het Nederlandse medialandschap een enorme impuls.”
Dr. Tamara Witschge, HvA-lector Creative Media for Social Change: “Met dit consortium van kennisinstellingen kan de HvA echt een belangrijke bijdrage leveren, omdat het gaat over het ontwikkelingen van technologische innovaties die publieke waarden en grondrechten borgen en mensenrechten respecteren, en deze in de journalistieke praktijk te testen. In het project komen de verschillende expertisegebieden van de faculteit Digitale Media en Creatieve Industrie samen: van AI tot media en design.”
GRONDRECHTEN, MENSENRECHTEN EN DRAAGVLAK
De ELSA Labs (ELSA: ‘Ethical, Legal and Societal Aspects’) zijn co-creatieve omgevingen waar interdisciplinair en met elkaar samenhangend onderzoek wordt gedaan naar verschillende technologische en economische uitdagingen waar we als samenleving voor gesteld worden. Het met de NWO-subsidie gefinancierde onderzoek moet niet alleen bijdragen aan technologische innovaties die publieke waarden en grondrechten borgen en mensenrechten respecteren (en waar mogelijk versterken), maar ook op maatschappelijk draagvlak kunnen rekenen. Nanda Piersma: ”We zijn trots dat het AI Media and Democracy Lab eerst het NLAIC ELSA label heeft gekregen en nu ook deze subsidie van NWO. Het voelt dat we het vertrouwen hebben gekregen en we willen dit maximaal waarmaken in de komende jaren.”
OVER MENSGERICHTE AI
NWO en de Nederlandse AI Coalitie hebben, als onderdeel van de Nationale Wetenschapsagenda (NWA), het programma ‘Artificiële Intelligentie: Mensgerichte Artificiële Intelligentie (AI) voor een inclusieve samenleving – naar een ecosysteem van vertrouwen’ gelanceerd. Het programma bevordert de ontwikkeling en toepassing van betrouwbare, mensgerichte AI.
In dit publiek-private samenwerkingsverband werken overheid, bedrijfsleven, onderwijs- en onderzoeksinstellingen en maatschappelijke organisaties samen om de nationale AI-ontwikkelingen te versnellen en bestaande initiatieven met elkaar te verbinden. Dit NWA-onderzoeksprogramma verbindt AI als sleuteltechnologie met AI-onderzoek voor een inclusieve samenleving. Daarbij spelen de nationale onderzoeksagenda AIREA-NL en maatschappelijke en beleidsvraagstukken een belangrijke rol.
“The essence of systems thinking is that you don't look at an object on its own, you consider everything that it is connected to.” Eva Gladek, founder and CEO of Metabolic.
How does systems thinking look in practice? A systems map is a good way to show how everything is interconnected and how different parts influence each other.
At Metabolic, we use systems thinking as a core strategy to advance our vision of a circular and sustainable economy. Check out how this approach delivers sustainable solutions.
The year 2022 has just begun and we already have some exciting news for our community. We are happy to announce that in the last half year we’ve expanded our partner network again. This time not with one, not two, but with no less than three new partners: the Province of Flevoland, Cenex Netherlands and Deloitte. We are very happy that these three parties have become partners of Amsterdam Smart City and want to give them a warm welcome!
The Province of Flevoland is the youngest province of The Netherlands. The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area includes Flevoland’s cities Almere and Lelystad. The connection between these cities and regions is very important because smart city developments in cities and regions are inextricably linked. People move between cities, materials flow through regions and energy innovations in one area affect people in other areas. Cooperation is needed. That is why Flevoland is a wonderful addition to our network.
To accelerate transitions, we need to collaborate, share knowledge and inspire each other. Cenex NL specialises in zero-emission vehicle and energy infrastructure, smart mobility, and related circular economy applications. It is their mission to support others in making the world a better place to live and travel in. Cenex NL develops useful knowledge and therefore helps partners to get a step further.
Accelerating transitions means working on business models, especially new business models. This knowledge is very needed in our network, a valuable contribution Deloitte can make. With their insights, research and views, Deloitte helps partners to thrive in a changing world.
Let’s continue to work together and create better streets, neighbourhoods and cities!
Find the overview of all Amsterdam Smart City partners here: