Civic Switchboard: Connecting Libraries and Community Information Networks

Civic Switchboard is an Institute of Museum and Library Services supported effort that aims to develop the capacity of academic and public libraries in civic data ecosystems.

We encourage partnerships between libraries and local data intermediaries that will better serve data users, further democratize data, and support equitable access to information. Our project is created an online guide and toolkit for libraries interested in expanding (or beginning) their role around civic information…(More)”.

Governing Smart Cities as Knowledge Commons

Book edited by Brett M. Frischmann, Michael J. Madison, and Madelyn Rose Sanfilippo: “The rise of ‘smart’ – or technologically advanced – cities has been well documented, while governance of such technology has remained unresolved. Integrating surveillance, AI, automation, and smart tech within basic infrastructure as well as public and private services and spaces raises a complex set of ethical, economic, political, social, and technological questions. The Governing Knowledge Commons (GKC) framework provides a descriptive lens through which to structure case studies examining smart tech deployment and commons governance in different cities. This volume deepens our understanding of community governance institutions, the social dilemmas communities face, and the dynamic relationships between data, technology, and human lives. For students, professors, and practitioners of law and policy dealing with a wide variety of planning, design, and regulatory issues relating to cities, these case studies illustrate options to develop best practice. Available through Open Access, the volume provides detailed guidance for communities deploying smart tech…(More)”

The 15-Minute City Quantified Using Mobility Data

Paper by Timur Abbiasov et al: “Americans travel 7 to 9 miles on average for shopping and recreational activities, which is far longer than the 15-minute (walking) city advocated by ecologically-oriented urban planners. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of local trip behavior in US cities using GPS data on individual trips from 40 million mobile devices. We define local usage as the share of trips made within 15-minutes walking distance from home, and find that the median US city resident makes only 12% of their daily trips within such a short distance. We find that differences in access to local services can explain eighty percent of the variation in 15-minute usage across metropolitan areas and 74 percent of the variation in usage within metropolitan areas. Differences in historic zoning permissiveness within New York suggest a causal link between access and usage, and that less restrictive zoning rules, such as permitting more mixed-use development, would lead to shorter travel times. Finally, we document a strong correlation between local usage and experienced segregation for poorer, but not richer, urbanites, which suggests that 15-minute cities may also exacerbate the social isolation of marginalized communities…(More)”.

Smart City Technologies: A Political Economy Introduction to Their Governance Challenges

Paper by Beatriz Botero Arcila: “Smart cities and smart city technologies are terms used to refer to computational models of urbanism and to data-driven and algorithmically intermediated technologies. Smart city technologies intend to plan for and deliver new efficiencies, insights, and conveniences on city services. At the same time, in instances when these tools are involved in decision-making processes that don’t have right or wrong mathematical answers, they present important challenges related to cementing inequality, discrimination, and surveillance. This chapter is an introduction to the governance challenges smart city technologies pose. It includes an overview of the literature, focusing on the risks they pose and it includes a case study of surveillance technologies as an example of the adoption and diffusion patterns of smart city technologies. This is a political economy approach to smart city technologies, which emphasizes the adoption, development, and diffusion patterns of these technologies as a function of institutional, market and ideological dynamics. Such an approach should allow scholars and policymakers to find points of intervention at the level of the institutions and infrastructures that sustain the current shape of these technologies to address and prevent some of risks and harms they create. This should help interested parties add some nuance to binary analyses and identify different actors, institutions, and infrastructures that can be instances of intervention to shape their effects and create change. It should also help those working on developing these tools to imagine how institutions and infrastructures must be shaped to realize their benefits…(More)”.

Industry Data for Society Partnership

Press Release: “On Wednesday, a new Industry Data for Society Partnership (IDSP) was launched by GitHub, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), LinkedIn, Microsoft, Northumbrian Water Group, R2 Factory and UK Power Networks. The IDSP is a first-of-its-kind cross-industry partnership to help advance more open and accessible private-sector data for societal good. The founding members of the IDSP agree to provide greater access to their data, where appropriate, to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges in areas such as sustainability and inclusive economic growth.

In the past few years, open data has played a critical role in enabling faster research and collaboration across industries and with the public sector. As we saw during COVID-19, pandemic data that was made more open enabled researchers to make faster progress and gave citizens more information to inform their day-to-day activities. The IDSP’s goal is to continue this model into new areas and help address other complex societal challenges. The IDSP will serve as a forum for the participating companies to foster collaboration, as well as a resource for other entities working on related issues.

IDSP members commit to the following:

  • To open data or provide greater access to data, where appropriate, to help solve pressing societal problems in a usable, responsible and inclusive manner.
  • To share knowledge and information for the effective use of open data and data collaboration for social benefit.
  • To invest in skilling a broad class of professionals to use data effectively and responsibly for social impact.
  • To protect individuals’ privacy in all these activities.

The IDSP will also bring in other organizations with expertise in societal issues. At launch, The GovLab’s Data Program based at New York University and the Open Data Institute will both be partnership Affiliates to provide guidance and expertise for partnership endeavors…(More)”.

Active Urbanism and choice architecture: Encouraging the use of challenging city routes for health and fitness

Paper by Anna Boldina, Paul H. P. Hanel & Koen Steemers: “Inactivity is one of the major health risks in technologically developed countries. This paper explores the potential of a series of urban landscape interventions to engage people in physical activity. Online surveys were conducted with 595 participants living in the UK by inviting them to choose between conventional pavement or challenging routes (steppingstones, balancing beams, and high steps) using photorealistic images. Across four experiments, we discovered that 80% of walkers claim they would pick a challenging route in at least one of the scenarios, depending on perceived level of difficulty and design characteristics. Where a challenging option was shorter than a conventional route, this increased the likelihood of being chosen by 10%, and the presence of handrails by 12%. This suggests that people can get nudged into physical activities through minor changes to the urban landscape. We discuss implications for policy makers and urban designers…(More)”.

Smart city planning must work for both private business and public citizens

Article by Neil Britto; Suparno Banerjee and Constanza Movsichoff: “The challenges associated with the design, development and maintenance of digital urban infrastructure are substantial and have to balance the needs and incentives of both public and private stakeholders. While proofs of concepts and test-beds have been tried and are often successful, scaling these to city scale has been challenging for a number of reasons:

  • Scope. There is too often a focus on solutions that address narrow aspects of the city’s needs.
  • Capital requirements. Many cities do not have adequate capital for deploying solutions at scale and might struggle to attract investment from the private sector.
  • Procurement. Procurement models favor vendor-buyer relationships as opposed to multi-year, multi-enterprise, complex partnerships.
  • Time scales. Some of the most pressing challenges that cities face will need multiple years to address. These complex journeys need partnerships that can withstand the pressures of time, budgets and expectations.
  • Data. A nuanced understanding of public concern over data sourcing and use can be critical for a successful public-private collaboration. These dynamics contribute to the unique challenges and opportunities for smart city public-private collaborations that range from intelligent street lighting to broadband access.

In recognition of these challenges, the World Economic Forum’s G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance assembled a taskforce to look for best practices and model policies in the area of public-private collaborations in 2021. That taskforce, comprised of experts and officers from cities, companies and institutions deeply involved in smart city projects, compiled case studies, insights and feedback from across the sector. As members of that taskforce, we are happy to provide a distillation of these resources in the form of our new Primer for Smart City Public Private Collaborations…(More)”.

AI Localism in Practice: Examining How Cities Govern AI

Report by Sara Marcucci, Uma Kalkar, and Stefaan Verhulst: “…serves as a primer for policymakers and practitioners to learn about current governance practices and inspire their own work in the field. In this report, we present the fundamentals of AI governance, the value proposition of such initiatives, and their application in cities worldwide to identify themes among city- and state-led governance actions. We close with ten lessons on AI localism for policymakers, data, AI experts, and the informed public to keep in mind as cities grow increasingly ‘smarter’, which include: 

  • Principles provide a North Star for governance;
  • Public engagement provides a social license;
  • AI literacy enables meaningful engagement;
  • Tap into local expertise;
  • Innovate in how transparency is provided;
  • Establish new means for accountability and oversight;
  • Signal boundaries through binding laws and policies;
  • Use procurement to shape responsible AI markets;
  • Establish data collaboratives to tackle asymmetries; and
  • Make good governance strategic.

Considered together, we look to use our understanding of governance practices, local AI governance examples, and the ten overarching lessons to create an incipient framework for implementing and assessing AI localism initiatives in cities around the world….(More)”

Global Review of Smart City Governance Practices

Report by UN Habitat: “Through smart city initiatives, digital technologies are increasingly applied in cities to modernize city operations and transform service delivery. The ongoing digital transformation provides new opportunities but also creates challenges, and it is increasingly apparent that delivering effective urban digital services is a complex task. Nowadays, smart city projects are typically driven by technology and little attention is given to governance dynamics. In addition, the novelty and complexity of many smart city initiatives make it difficult for public sector organizations to fully grasp how to effectively manage digital transformation processes.

As many cities and public sector organizations across the world have been experimenting with smart city initiatives, their actions have generated a data-rich environment from which to learn. As such, this report features findings from a systematic literature review and a global online survey completed by approximately 300 respondents, who have reported on the smart city governance practices of more than 250 municipalities in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

With the objective to support both urban managers and practitioners, the report highlights several dimensions for effective smart city governance and ways to foster a people-centered approach to smart cities. It serves as a knowledge resource to present best practices, gaps in smart city governance mechanisms, and the various elements to consider when governing the planning and implementation of smart city initiatives.

The report is part of UN-Habitat’s strategy to promote a people-centered approach to digital transformation supporting local governments in establishing the right capacities, regulatory frameworks, collaborations and arrangements for using technology to advance human developments and show commitment to human rights, both in online and offline environments…(More)”.

Urban governance and civic capital: analysis of an evolving concept

Paper by Jen Nelles & David A. Wolfe: “This article argues that the concept of civic capital affords considerable insight into systems of urban economic development, usefully bridging gaps in both institution-centric and social capital approaches. While the concept has been applied in the literature on urban governance and economic development, its use has been fragmentary and has not seen broad engagement. This review of the state of the literature situates the concept of civic capital relative to existing literature in the field, highlights its relationship to other concepts, and reviews several qualitative approaches that apply the concept to case studies. It provides an overview of the concept and a description of the way it has developed alongside the rich literature on governance and social capital in urban development to illustrate its potential for further analytical study….(More)”.