Shaping the Future of Small and Medium-Sized Cities: A Framework for Digital Transformation

Report by the World Economic Forum: “Digital transformation is becoming a crucial support mechanism for countries as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and undergo economic rebuilding and sustained development. For small and medium-sized cities (SMCs), digital transformation can disrupt traditional business models, breakthrough geographical and spatial boundaries, and create new ways to live in the digital era. However, the digital transformation of SMCs presents challenges such as insufficient digital talent, funds, and resources, poor understanding and application of digital technologies, and a lack of intercity interaction and cooperation mechanisms. This report analyses the challenges, needs, and concerns of SMCs undergoing digital transformation in China, Japan, Brazil, and Singapore, proposes a methodological reference model, and suggests actions for various urban stakeholders…(More)”.

The power of data: how Helsinki is improving citizens’ lives

WEF Blog: “New technologies, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and the metaverse, demand data as the foundational resource for solving systemic challenges, from pandemic response to climate change. Yet despite an abundance of both supply and demand, the evolution from data to insight still presents many challenges.

On the one hand, data often remains siloed within territorial boundaries and corporate environments and is unavailable to benefit people, society and the planet. On the other, the type of governance needed to assure proper oversight, transparency and accountability by those using data is still being understood.

As the data universe expands, it becomes exponentially more complex, requiring solutions that integrate political, economic, social, environmental, technological and, most importantly, human aspects…

Through its partnership with the City of Helsinki, the Forum has convened a global community of technologists, anthropologists and policy and data experts to develop data policy that serves the general public and meets their expectations…(More)”.

Helsinki process to understand the power of data

Trust but Verify: Validating New Measures for Mapping Social Infrastructure in Cities

Paper by Timothy Fraser et al: “Scholars and policymakers increasingly recognize the value of social capital – the connections that generate and enable trust among people – in responding to and recovering from shocks and disasters. However, some communities have more social infrastructure, that is, sites that produce and maintain social capital, than others. Community centers, libraries, public pools, and parks serve as locations where people can gather, interact, and build social ties. Much research on urban spaces relies on Google maps because of its ubiquity and this article tests the degree to which it can accurately, reliably, and effectively capture social infrastructure. In this study, we map the social infrastructure of Boston using Google Maps Places API and then ground truth our measures, mapping social infrastructure on street corners with in-person site observations to evaluate the accuracy of available data. We find that though we may need to use multi-vectored measurement when trying to capture social infrastructure, Google maps serve as reliable measurements with a predictable, acceptable margin of error…(More)”.

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)”.

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)”.

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)”.

A Behavioural Theory of Economic Development: The Uneven Evolution of Cities and Regions

Book by Robert Huggins and Piers Thompson: “Innovation, entrepreneurship, knowledge, and human capital are widely acknowledged as key levers of development. Yet what are the sources of these factors, and why do they differ in their endowment across regions? Motivated by a belief that theories of economic development can move beyond the generally accepted explanations of location and the organization of industries and capital, this book establishes a behavioural theory of economic development illustrating that differences in human behaviour across cities and regions are a significant deep-rooted cause of uneven development.

Fusing a range of concepts relating to culture, psychology, human agency, institutions, and power, it proposes that the long-term differentials in economic development between cities and regions, both within and across nations, is strongly connected to the underlying forms of behaviour enacted by humans on an individual and collective basis. Given a world of finite and limited resources, coupled with a rapidly growing population — especially in cities and urban regions — human behaviour, and the expectations and preferences upon which it is based, are central to understanding how notions of development may change in coming years. This book provides a novel theory of the role of psychocultural context and human behavioural and institutional frameworks in uneven economic development on a global scale….(More)”.