Transparency of open data ecosystems in smart cities: Definition and assessment of the maturity of transparency in 22 smart cities

Paper by Martin Lnenicka et al: “This paper focuses on the issue of the transparency maturity of open data ecosystems seen as the key for the development and maintenance of sustainable, citizen-centered, and socially resilient smart cities. This study inspects smart cities’ data portals and assesses their compliance with transparency requirements for open (government) data. The expert assessment of 34 portals representing 22 smart cities, with 36 features, allowed us to rank them and determine their level of transparency maturity according to four predefined levels of maturity – developing, defined, managed, and integrated. In addition, recommendations for identifying and improving the current maturity level and specific features have been provided. An open data ecosystem in the smart city context has been conceptualized, and its key components were determined. Our definition considers the components of the data-centric and data-driven infrastructure using the systems theory approach. We have defined five predominant types of current open data ecosystems based on prevailing data infrastructure components. The results of this study should contribute to the improvement of current data ecosystems and build sustainable, transparent, citizen-centered, and socially resilient open data-driven smart cities…(More)”.

Using ANPR data to create an anonymized linked open dataset on urban bustle

Paper by Brecht Van de Vyvere & Pieter Colpaert: “ANPR cameras allow the automatic detection of vehicle license plates and are increasingly used for law enforcement. However, also statistical data generated by ANPR cameras are a potential source of urban insights. In order for this data to reach its full potential for policy-making, we research how this data can be shared in digital twins, with researchers, for a diverse set of machine learning models, and even Open Data portals. This article’s key objective is to find a way to anonymize and aggregate ANPR data in a way that it still can provide useful visualizations for local decision making. We introduce an approach to aggregate the data with geotemporal binning and publish it by combining nine existing data specifications. We implemented the approach for the city of Kortrijk (Belgium) with 43 ANPR cameras, developed the ANPR Metrics tool to generate the statistical data and dashboards on top of the data, and tested whether mobility experts from the city could deduct valuable insights. We present a couple of insights that were found as a result, as a proof that anonymized ANPR data complements their currently used traffic analysis tools, providing a valuable source for data-driven policy-making…(More)”.

Cities Take the Lead in Setting Rules Around How AI Is Used

Jackie Snow at the Wall Street Journal: “As cities and states roll out algorithms to help them provide services like policing and traffic management, they are also racing to come up with policies for using this new technology.

AI, at its worst, can disadvantage already marginalized groups, adding to human-driven bias in hiring, policing and other areas. And its decisions can often be opaque—making it difficult to tell how to fix that bias, as well as other problems. (The Wall Street Journal discussed calls for regulation of AI, or at least greater transparency about how the systems work, with three experts.)

Cities are looking at a number of solutions to these problems. Some require disclosure when an AI model is used in decisions, while others mandate audits of algorithms, track where AI causes harm or seek public input before putting new AI systems in place.

Here are some ways cities are redefining how AI will work within their borders and beyond.

Explaining the algorithms: Amsterdam and Helsinki

One of the biggest complaints against AI is that it makes decisions that can’t be explained, which can lead to complaints about arbitrary or even biased results.

To let their citizens know more about the technology already in use in their cities, Amsterdam and Helsinki collaborated on websites that document how each city government uses algorithms to deliver services. The registry includes information on the data sets used to train an algorithm, a description of how an algorithm is used, how public servants use the results, the human oversight involved and how the city checks the technology for problems like bias.

Amsterdam has six algorithms fully explained—with a goal of 50 to 100—on the registry website, including how the city’s automated parking-control and trash-complaint reports work. Helsinki, which is only focusing on the city’s most advanced algorithms, also has six listed on its site, with another 10 to 20 left to put up.

“We needed to assess the risk ourselves,” says Linda van de Fliert, an adviser at Amsterdam’s Chief Technology Office. “And we wanted to show the world that it is possible to be transparent.”…(More)” See also AI Localism: The Responsible Use and Design of Artificial Intelligence at the Local Level

City museums in the age of datafication: could museums be meaningful sites of data practice in smart cities?

Paper by Natalia Grincheva: “The article documents connections and synergies between city museums’ visions and programming as well as emerging smart city issues and dilemmas in a fast-paced urban environment marked with the processes of increasing digitalization and datafication. The research employs policy/document analysis and semi-structured interviews with smart city government representatives and museum professionals to investigating both smart city policy frameworks as well as city museum’s data-driven installations and activities in New York, London and Singapore. A comparative program analysis of the Singapore City Gallery, Museum of the City of New York and Museum of London identifies such sites of data practices as Data storytelling, interpretation and eco-curation. Discussing these sites as dedicated spaces of smart citizen engagement, the article reveals that city museums can either empower their visitors to consider their roles as active city co-makers or see them as passive recipients of the smart city transformations….(More)”.

How Cities Are Using Digital Twins Like a SimCity for Policymakers

Article by Linda Poon: “The entire 40-square-mile metro region of Orlando, Florida, may soon live virtually inside the offices of the Orlando Economic Partnership (OEP). The group has partnered with the gaming company Unity to develop a 3-D model of the area — from its downtown core all the way out to Space Coast on the eastern edge of central Florida — that the city can show off to potential investors in its bid to grow as a tech hub.

“It’ll be a circular room with LED screens kind of 180 degrees,” says OEP President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Giuliani.“Then in the middle, we’re planning the holographic image, where the digital twin of the region will come to life.” 

Orlando’s planned showcase is one of the flashier uses of a new technology that’s being lauded as a potential game changer for urban planning. Like a SimCity for policymakers, digital twins allow cities not just to create virtual models, but to run simulations of new policies or infrastructure projects and preview their potential impacts before making a decision in the real world. 

They may be also one of the more tangible opportunities for cities in the race for the so-called metaverse, an immersive network of virtual worlds that some leaders believe to be the future of urban living. Using 3-D mapping and analysis of static and real-time data, municipalities and businesses are increasingly adopting digital twin technology — although many of its potential uses remain aspirational thus far. 

Orlando expects to use its digital twin technology for more than virtual tours. It also hopes to preview how different investments, like a transit system upgrade, might affect the built environment and its residents. Several other U.S. cities are building replicas to model traffic congestion strategies and drive net-zero climate goals. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix are all building out digital twins to lower building emissions as part of the Clean Cities Clean Future campaign from the software company Cityzenith. Globally, cities from Singapore to Helsinki and Dubai are also investing in the technology, with goals ranging from driving sustainability to promoting virtual tourism. 

The technology could help officials cut operating costs and carbon emissions of new construction, and avoid costly modifications after a project is completed. Amid an ever-looming climate crisis facing urban areas, it could enable cities to test the effectiveness of various measures against rising sea levels and urban heat. By one estimate, digital twins could save cities some $280 billion by 2030….(More)”

The Bristol Approach for Citizen Engagement in the Energy Market

Interview by Sebastian Klemm with Lorraine Hudson Anna Higueras and Lucia Errandonea:”… the Twinergy engagement framework with 5 iterative steps:

  1. Identification of the communities.
  2. Co-Design Technologies and Incentives for participating in the project.
  3. Deploy Technologies at people’s home and develop new skills within the communities.
  4. Measure Changes with a co-assessment approach.
  5. Reflect on Outcomes to improve engagement and delivery.

KWMC and Ideas for Change have worked with pilot leaders, through interviews and workshops, to understand their previous experience with engagement methods and gather knowledge about local contexts, citizens and communities who will be engaged.

The Citizen Engagement Framework includes a set of innovative tools to guide pilot leaders in planning their interventions. These tools are the EDI matrix, the persona cards, scenario cards and a pilot timeline.

  1. The EDI Matrix that aims to foster reflection in the recruitment process ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities to participate.
  2. The Persona Cards that prompt an in-depth reflection about participants background, motivations and skills.
  3. The Scenario Cards to imagine possible situations that could be experienced during the pilot program.
  4. Pilot Timeline that provides an overview of key activities to be conducted over the course of the pilot and supports planning in advance….(More)”.

Public Meetings Thwart Housing Reform Where It Is Needed Most

Interview with Katherine Levine Einstein by Jake Blumgart: “Public engagement can have downsides. Neighborhood participation in the housing permitting process makes existing political inequalities worse, limits housing supply and contributes to the affordability crisis….

In 2019, Katherine Levine Einstein and her co-authors at Boston University produced the first in-depth study of this dynamic, Neighborhood Defenders, providing a unique insight into how hyper-local democracy can produce warped land-use outcomes. Governing talked with her about the politics of delay, what kind of regulations hamper growth and when community meetings can still be an effective means of public feedback.

Governing: What could be wrong with a neighborhood meeting? Isn’t this democracy in its purest form? 

Katherine Levine Einstein: In this book, rather than look at things in their ideal form, we actually evaluated how they are working on the ground. We bring data to the question of whether neighborhood meetings are really providing community voice. One of the reasons that we think of them as this important cornerstone of American democracy is because they are supposedly providing us perspectives that are not widely heard, really amplifying the voices of neighborhood residents.

What we’re able to do in the book is to really bring home the idea that the people who are showing up are not actually representative of their broader communities and they are unrepresentative in really important ways. They’re much more likely to be opposed to new housing, and they’re demographically privileged on a number of dimensions….

What we find happens in practice is that even in less privileged places, these neighborhood meetings are actually amplifying more privileged voices. We study a variety of more disadvantaged places and what the dynamics of these meetings look like. The principles that hold in more affluent communities still play out in these less privileged places. You still hear from voices that are overwhelmingly opposed to new housing. The voices that are heard are much more likely to be homeowners, white and older…(More)”.

Befriending Trees to Lower a City’s Temperature

Peter Wilson at the New York Times: “New York, Denver, Shanghai, Ottawa and Los Angeles have all unveiled Million Tree Initiatives aimed at greatly increasing their urban forests because of the ability of trees to reduce city temperatures, absorb carbon dioxide and soak up excess rainfall.

Central Melbourne, on the other hand, lacks those cities’ financial firepower and is planning to plant a little more than 3,000 trees a year over the next decade. Yet it has gained the interest of other cities by using its extensive data to shore up the community engagement and political commitment required to sustain the decades-long work of building urban forests.

A small municipality covering just 14.5 square miles in the center of the greater Melbourne metropolitan area — which sprawls for 3,860 square miles and houses 5.2 million people in 31 municipalities — the city of Melbourne introduced its online map in 2013.

Called the Urban Forest Visual, the map displayed each of the 80,000 trees in its parks and streets, and showed each tree’s age, species and health. It also gave each tree its own email address so that people could help to monitor them and alert council workers to any specific problems.

That is when the magic happened.

City officials were surprised to see the trees receiving thousands of love letters. They ranged from jaunty greetings — “good luck with the photosynthesis” — to love poems and emotional tributes about how much joy the trees brought to people’s lives….(More)”.

Urban Creativity Now

Playbook by Urban Change Academy: “The coronavirus pandemic has changed city life almost beyond recognition. Many people are struggling with loss, financial insecurity, and loneliness. At the same time, the crisis has made many things possible that were previously unthinkable or difficult to imagine – parks became open-air fitness studios, car parks turned into playgrounds, exhibition halls changed into hospital wards. Bicycles have been given more space on the streets in many cities, retailers and restaurateurs have become more creative and found new ways to serve their customers despite shop closures.

Many of these things have come about spontaneously, without any underlying strategies or development plans. they demonstrate a creativity we have not seen that we have not seen in cities for a long time. As the Urban Change Academy, we were wondering: what can cities learn from these projects? This playbook reflects that approach.

Urban Creativity Now is a collection of impulses, observations, and perspectives on the Covid pandemic and how it is changing our cities. In three parts, we explore the question of how cities and citizens are dealing with this crisis and what options for action arise from it…(More)”.

Cities4Cities: new matchmaking platform launched to support Ukrainian local and regional authorities

Council of Europe: “A new matchmaking online platform, Cities4Cities, developed to help Ukrainian cities was launched in Strasbourg today. The platform is a free online exchange tool; it allows local authorities in Ukraine and in the rest of Europe to share their needs and offers related to local infrastructure and get in direct contact to receive practical help.

The platform was launched at the initiative of Bernd Vöhringer (Germany, EPP/CCE), President of the Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and Mayor of the city of Sindelfingen, with the support of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Bernd Vöhringer explained that the need for co-ordination of support action coming from the local level became very clear to him after the visit in the end of March to the Polish twin city of Sindelfingen, Chełm, situated near the Ukrainian border where he saw first-hand the “urgent need for material, financial and human resources support”. “The platform will be a place to match the demands/needs of Ukrainian cities with the capacity, know-how and supply of other European cities,” he noted, “It will enable faster and more efficient support to our Ukrainian friends and partners”.

Secretary General of the Congress, Andreas Kiefer, said that the Congress “welcomes the efforts of local and regional authorities of the member States of the Council of Europe and their associations in support for their Ukrainian counterparts and citizens”, and the Cities4Cities initiative is an example of such result-oriented solidarity action at the local level. “In the recently adopted Declaration the Congress stressed that democracy, multilevel governance and human rights are stronger than war, and reiterated its firm stand by Ukraine and its people”, Kiefer concluded.

Ambassador Borys Tarasyuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council of Europe, stressed that the initiative will serve well the purpose of providing practical assistance to the most vulnerable, amidst the immense human tragedy and challenges, and will complement the political support and solidarity expressed by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Council of Europe as a whole…(More)”.