The City as a License: Design, Rights and Civics in a Blockchain Society

Special Issue by Martijn de Waal et al: “Building upon critical work on smart cities, platform urbanism and algorithmic governance, this special issue proposes the ‘generative metaphor’ of the City as a License as a lens to analyze the digitally enhanced management of urban resources and infrastructures from a perspective of rights and agency. Such a perspective has become especially urgent with the rise of new data practices around the emergence of distributed ledger technologies, as they may introduce additional layers of complexity to the ‘algorithmic governance’ of cities. This is particularly due to their tokenization of resources, identities, and rights and automatic administration of access to urban resources. Contributions in this special issue investigate the affordances of distributed ledger technologies with regards to civic agency in the governance of collective urban resources. Could these newly emerging management systems for energy production and consumption or property rights contribute to pro-social and sustainable ways of governing and managing communities and their resources, according to the logic of the commons? The lens of the City as a License not only allows for such an analysis of potentialities, but also for a critical view on these techno-social systems, such as the way in which they may repeat the inequities and obfuscations of existing systems, produce unintended consequences through complex processes, and complicate accountability…(More)”.

Open data ecosystems: what models to co-create service innovations in smart cities?

Paper by Arthur Sarazin: “While smart cities are recently providing open data, how to organise the collective creation of data, knowledge and related products and services produced from this collective resource, still remains to be thought. This paper aims at gathering the literature review on open data ecosystems to tackle the following research question: what models can be imagined to stimulate the collective co-creation of services between smart cities’ stakeholders acting as providers and users of open data? Such issue is currently at stake in many municipalities such as Lisbon which decided to position itself as a platform (O’Reilly, 2010) in the local digital ecosystem. With the implementation of its City Operation Center (COI), Lisbon’s municipality provides an Information Infrastructure (Bowker et al., 2009) to many different types of actors such as telecom companies, municipalities, energy utilities or transport companies. Through this infrastructure, Lisbon encourages such actors to gather, integrate and release heterogeneous datasets and tries to orchestrate synergies among them so data-driven solution to urban problems can emerge (Carvalho and Vale, 2018). The remaining question being: what models for the municipalities such as Lisbon to lean on so as to drive this cutting-edge type of service innovation?…(More)”.

Managing smart city governance – A playbook for local and regional governments

Report by UN Habitat” “This playbook and its recommendations are primarily aimed at municipal governments and their political leaders, local administrators, and public officials who are involved in smart city initiatives. The recommendations, which are delineated in the subsequent sections of this playbook, are intended to help develop more effective, inclusive, and sustainable governance practices for urban digital transformations. The guidance offered on these pages could also be useful for national agencies, private companies, non-governmental organizations, and all stakeholders committed to promoting the sustainable development of urban communities through the implementation of smart city initiatives…(More)”.

Social approach to the transition to smart cities

Report by the European Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS): “This study explores the main impacts of the smart city transition on our cities and, in particular, on citizens and territories. In our research, we start from an analysis of smart city use cases to identify a set of key challenges, and elaborate on the main accelerating factors that may amplify or contain their impact on particular groups and territories. We then present an account of best practices that can help mitigate or prevent such challenges, and make some general observations on their scalability and replicability. Finally, based on an analysis of EU regulatory frameworks and a mapping of current or upcoming initiatives in the domain of smart city innovation, capacity-building and knowledge capitalisation, we propose six policy options to inform future policy-making at EU level to support a more inclusive smart city transition…(More)”.

Digital divides are lower in Smart Cities

Paper by Andrea Caragliu and Chiara F. Del Bo: “Ever since the emergence of digital technologies in the early 1990s, the literature has discussed the potential pitfalls of an uneven distribution of e-skills under the umbrella of the digital divide. To provide a definition of the concept, “Lloyd Morrisett coined the term digital divide to mean “a discrepancy in access to technology resources between socioeconomic groups” (Robyler and Doering, 2014, p. 27)

Despite digital divide being high on the policy agenda, statistics suggest the persisting relevance of this issue. For instance, focusing on Europe, according to EUROSTAT statistics, in 2021 about 90 per cent of people living in Zeeland, a NUTS2 region in the Netherlands, had ordered at least once in their life goods or services over the internet for private use, against a minimum in the EU27 of 15 per cent (in the region of Yugoiztochen, in Bulgaria). In the same year, while basically all (99 per cent) interviewees in the NUTS2 region of Northern and Western Ireland declared using the internet at least once a week, the same statistic drops to two thirds of the sample in the Bulgarian region of Severozapaden. While over time these territorial divides are converging, they can still significantly affect the potential positive impact of the diffusion of digital technologies.

Over the past three years, the digital divide has been made dramatically apparent by the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. When, during the first waves of full lockdowns enacted in most Countries, tertiary and schooling activities were moved online, many economic outcomes showed significant worsening. Among these, learning outcomes in pupils and service sectors’ productivity were particularly affected.

A simultaneous development in the scientific literature has discussed the attractive features of planning and managing cities ‘smartly’. Smart Cities have been initially identified as urban areas with a tendency to invest and deploy ICTs. More recently, this notion also started to encompass the context characteristics that make a city capable of reaping the benefits of ICTs – social and human capital, soft and hard institutions.

While mounting empirical evidence suggests a superior economic performance of Cities ticking all these boxes, the Smart City movement did not come without critiques. The debate on urban smartness as an instrument for planning and managing more efficient cities has been recently positing that Smart Cities could be raising inequalities. This effect would be due to the role of driver of smart urban transformations played by multinational corporations, who, in a dystopic view, would influence local policymakers’ agendas.

Given these issues, and our own research on Smart Cities, we started asking ourselves whether the risks of increasing inequalities associated with the Smart City model were substantiated. To this end, we focused on empirically verifying whether cities moving forward along the smart city model were facing increases in income and digital inequalities. We answered the first question in Caragliu and Del Bo (2022), and found compelling evidence that smart city characteristics actually decrease income inequalities…(More)”.

Future-proofing the city: A human rights-based approach to governing algorithmic, biometric and smart city technologies

Introduction to Special Issue by Alina Wernick, and Anna Artyushina: “While the GDPR and other EU laws seek to mitigate a range of potential harms associated with smart cities, the compliance with and enforceability of these regulations remain an issue. In addition, these proposed regulations do not sufficiently address the collective harms associated with the deployment of biometric technologies and artificial intelligence. Another relevant question is whether the initiatives put forward to secure fundamental human rights in the digital realm account for the issues brought on by the deployment of technologies in city spaces. In this special issue, we employ the smart city notion as a point of connection for interdisciplinary research on the human rights implications of the algorithmic, biometric and smart city technologies and the policy responses to them. The articles included in the special issue analyse the latest European regulations as well as soft law, and the policy frameworks that are currently at work in the regions where the GDPR does not apply…(More)”.

Slow-governance in smart cities: An empirical study of smart intersection implementation in four US college towns

Paper by Madelyn Rose Sanfilippo and Brett Frischmann: “Cities cannot adopt supposedly smart technological systems and protect human rights without developing appropriate data governance, because technologies are not value-neutral. This paper proposes a deliberative, slow-governance approach to smart tech in cities. Inspired by the Governing Knowledge Commons (GKC) framework and past case studies, we empirically analyse the adoption of smart intersection technologies in four US college towns to evaluate and extend knowledge commons governance approaches to address human rights concerns. Our proposal consists of a set of questions that should guide community decision-making, extending the GKC framework via an incorporation of human-rights impact assessments and a consideration of capabilities approaches to human rights. We argue that such a deliberative, slow-governance approach enables adaptation to local norms and more appropriate community governance of smart tech in cities. By asking and answering key questions throughout smart city planning, procurement, implementation and management processes, cities can respect human rights, interests and expectations…(More)”.

Digital (In)justice in the Smart City

Book edited by Debra Mackinnon, Ryan Burns and Victoria Fast: “In the contemporary moment, smart cities have become the dominant paradigm for urban planning and administration, which involves weaving the urban fabric with digital technologies. Recently, however, the promises of smart cities have been gradually supplanted by recognition of their inherent inequalities, and scholars are increasingly working to envision alternative smart cities.

Informed by these pressing challenges, Digital (In)Justice in the Smart City foregrounds discussions of how we should think of and work towards urban digital justice in the smart city. It provides a deep exploration of the sources of injustice that percolate throughout a range of sociotechnical assemblages, and it questions whether working towards more just, sustainable, liveable, and egalitarian cities requires that we look beyond the limitations of “smartness” altogether. The book grapples with how geographies impact smart city visions and roll-outs, on the one hand, and how (unjust) geographies are produced in smart pursuits, on the other. Ultimately, Digital (In)Justice in the Smart City envisions alternative cities – smart or merely digital – and outlines the sorts of roles that the commons, utopia, and the law might take on in our conceptions and realizations of better cities…(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)”

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)”.