Citizen participation, at the heart of new Smart Cities

The concept of ‘Smart Cities’ is starting to gain strength in Spain. ‘Smart Cities’ are those cities committed to using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and a model of higher quality infrastructures that improve the quality of life of their citizens, while reducing public expenditure.

In other countries, outstanding examples of Smart Cities are Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Vienna in Europe; or Boston, San Francisco and Seattle in North America.

In Spain, the Spanish Network of Smart Cities (Red Española de Ciudades Inteligentes; RECI) brings together 49 Spanish cities, such as Santander, Móstoles, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Malaga, Valencia and Seville, among others.

In addition, 50 Spanish cities make up the RedInnpulso network, which counts with government support for a development model based on knowledge, science and innovation.

Along the same lines, 23 Spanish cities are presenting projects for the competition “Mayors Challenge”, organized by Michael Bloomberg’s foundation, which rewards the most innovative management initiatives in European cities. Madrid and Barcelona are among the 21 finalist projects.

Since 2011, the Spanish Network of Smart Cities, headed by Íñigo de la Serna, Mayor of Santander, has made a resolute commitment towards networking between the different administrations, promoting cooperation between the public and private sectors in the construction of Smart Cities.

Santander is, precisely, a very good example of this. Its city council is spearheading the Smart City movement in Spain, taking into account both private initiatives as part of various ‘smart’ projects and its own citizens, in order to become a Smart City.

Social innovation has therefore become one of its pillars, as made evident by the creation of its citizen participation platform, the Santander City Brain, which, according to De la Serna, has made Santander “the first city to democratize idea generation” in all of Spain.

Santander’s citizens, who know their city better than anyone, have become involved in improving their surroundings, creating a collective brain that has seen the creation of over 800 ideas from close to 200 citizens. The platform has also been used to hold several competitions for innovative ideas that promote entrepreneurship and a local economy based on knowledge.

Another city defined by its innovative spirit, Móstoles, has also decided to follow the same path with the launch of its own open participation platform: Ideas Ciudadanas.

In both cases, citizens have become involved for one simple reason: they are interested in improving the quality of life in their surroundings and they have been given a tool with which to do so. Both town councils are also committed to increasing citizen participation and transparency in their city’s management processes.

In a nutshell, what Santander and Móstoles have done is to promote social innovation and make the most of their citizens’ valuable human capital in order to build a better city between everyone.

* Pic by: Intel Free Press (modified under CC license)

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