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From factors to actors, citizens increasingly in focus at Smart Cities and Communities meeting

One of the key working groups of the European Innovation Partnership is entitled ‘Citizen Focus’. CITyFiED was one site to testify, share and be inspired.  

From intensive consultation and engagement, school visits to biomass boilers, live testing of technologies at BBQ events and fully equipped demonstration apartments, CITyFiED has been both obliged and proactive in approaching citizens and residents around demo sites and beyond.

Despite a rich number of communication tools and face-to-face initiatives, the capacity to really empower and co-create a sustainable, collective future is still in its infancy. By participating to a broader European discussing with fellow smart cities projects, CITyFiED can derive a direct benefit and contribute to a more mature and wide scale inclusion of citizens.

Smart citizens are the backbone of a smart city was the principal rallying cry from the off, with Commissioner Violeta Bulc and keynotes bringing examples from the Netherlands, Italy and beyond; but discussions went into detail on a number of issues. The importance of political continuity to build trust and engagement over time; transmitting the urgency of a more sustainable set of practices; and the essential issue of data privacy and management.

Recommendations and guidelines for implementing privacy in smart cities were hot topics of debate during the Citizen Focus breakout session.  Data is collected at every turn in a sensor-rich city giving an incredibly revealing picture of behaviour.  At the same time, the process of collecting data and the way it is ultimately used is a potential source of conflict and trust breaker between authorities and citizens.  These tensions are considered to be a key issue as the amount of data generated and public awareness on the issue grows. The privacy session also spoke about how on-going smart city initiatives can integrate privacy management to ensure compliance with the GDPR (General Data Protection regulation) and upcoming recommendations on the ‘Privacy by Design’ approach.

During the afternoon session The Inclusive Smart Cities Manifesto, a EU level policy action from the Citizen Focus Action Cluster to boost cities’ commitment towards citizen engagement, was presented and discussed. The aim is to have the Manifesto signed by at least 100 cities and officially presented at the next EIP-SCC meeting, which will take place in Brussels in November 2016. Smart Cities associations and Cities (ERRIN, ICLEI, EUROCITIES, the City of Peterborough, Eindhoven, the Scottish Cities Alliance and the Valencia Urban Innovation Foundation) actively participated in the discussion and already took a commitment towards active engagement of their member cities and public authorities to sign.  Key elements of the text are: user centric design, respect of privacy by design, inclusiveness, co-design and co-creation. Principal concepts include greater transparency, more sustainable and responsible urban innovation and harnessing the potential of technology to ensure social inclusion and quality of service delivery.

Cities and local authorities have plenty of progress to make in incorporating the values, concerns priorities and needs of its citizens. The first steps are clearly in motion and will have a considerable impact on how the urban environment is managed, services delivered and people interact with one another and the powers that govern. 


23 June 2016