IDP2015 (IX). Multidisciplinary debate on the challenges of smart cities

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By Ismael Peña-López (@ictlogist), 03 July 2015
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Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Multidisciplinary debate on the challenges of smart cities
Chairs: Marta Continente

Pilar Conesa. Founder and director of Anteverti.

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Increasing concentration of people living in urban areas. Areas which are becoming totally saturated and ask for new ways or urban planning. This includes not only transportation, but also public services like education, healthcare, etc. The 19th century was a century of empires, the 20th century was a century of nation states, the 21st century will be a century of cities, Wellington E. Webb.

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If we want to develop new cities, new smart cities, we need to know and share the approach behind. This is not trivial and it will determine the model of smart city that will be put into practice.

There is no smart city without a smart government.

Oriol Torruella. Director of the Legal Consultancy Department, CESICAT, Information Security Center of Catalonia

Smart city: improve the efficiency and efficacy of the management of the city, by means of an intensive usage of ICTs.

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There are, though, some risks: the vulnerabilities of both software and hardware; the management of the citizen identity; treatment of personal data; affectation to the availability and security of critical infrastructures, etc.

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It is crucial that citizens become smart citizens too if they are to be part of a smart city. They have to be aware of all risks of cibersecurity, what are the laws that apply to certain practices and activities, etc.

Ricard Faura. Head of Knowledge Society, Generalitat de Catalunya

The citizen in the smart city, sensor or actor? (Pisani, Datopolis o Particopolis?)

We have to foster some elements through ICTs: participation, organization and collaboration.

For the smart city to be useful for the citizens, one needs to empower the citizens themselves, so that they can be active and critical. But ICTs have to be empowering, not barriers.

Main duties of the government: diffusion, information, awareness raising, training.

The city has to be a real lab where everything is possible and everything can be analysed and improved, and especially fitting the particular needs of the different communities that one finds within the city or across cities.


José Luis Rubiés: Is there a risk of an illustrated despotism from the one that manages all these data? Who is the curator of the big data coming from smart cities? Ricard Faura: yes, this is a huge risk. Oriol Torruella: we are just at the dawn of smart cities and, as usually Humanity has done in the past, we work on a trial and error basis: we implement things, realize the risks, try to correct them, and on and on. Little by little we will learn to design better, to avoid risks before we implement, etc.

Q: can we extrapolate initiatives from one place to the other so that we do not have to reinvent the wheel? Marta Continente: yes and no. Yes, one can adapt what worked elsewhere. But the important thing is that ICTs, or whatever initiative on smart cities, are just a toolbox. And, as such, its application or usage will strongly depend on the realities found in each specific city.

11th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2015)

IDP2015 (VIII). Juan José Medina Ariza: Crime Mapping and the Smart City

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Smart city, smart policing
Prof. Dr. Dr. Juan José Medina Ariza. Professor of Criminology (University of Manchester)

Security has traditionally been based on a top-down visions, a centralized control room.

Many municipalities have sort of “dashboards” that map the city crime, security issues, socio-economic indicators, etc.

These dashboards aim at locating clusters where more crime takes place, identifying the determinants or correlating factors of that crime, etc. After this clustering and correlations, one can create tools that can try to predict crime, based on trends and simulations. And once crime is “predicted”, then comes “predicted policing”, that aims at stopping crime just before it takes place, going to the place where crime is most likely to happen.

Problems when opening data: What happens when we open the data? How legitimate is its collection? How fair is its analysis?

The risks of Campbell’s law: the more one uses an indicator for decision-making purposes, the less it is useful for decision-making purposes, as it use imprints a bias into the indicator itself.

We know too that in some cases, there are biases in citizens reporting crime: many of them will not be eager to report crime, because this will diminish the value of their real state, because of own security reasons, etc.

What’s next? From predicting hotspots to individual predictions. A growing awareness about the problems with algorithms. Going back to measuring what matters. Privatised criminal justice is not science fiction any longer.

On the other hand, we will maybe see a rise in transparency in what relates to police practices, like stop and search.

There is a problem with profiling with big data, as in the one hand it is built upon evidence, but on the other hand it can strengthen biases, stigmas and prejudices.


E.J. Koops: does crime mapping represent reality or constitutes reality? Juan José Medina: this is definitely a problem with mapping that needs being addressed specifically in each and every case.

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IDP2015 (VII). E.J. Koops: Physical and Online Privacy: fundamental challenges for level frameworks to remain relevant

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Physical and Online Privacy: fundamental challenges for level frameworks to remain relevant.
Prof. Dr. E.J. Koops. Professor of Regulation & Technology (Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society)

Is it legal, or should it be allowed to:

  • Scan homes with termal equipped drones in search of hemp domestic plantations?
  • Take a snapshot of a stranger, google them, recognize their faces, peek at their social networking profiles and start a conversation with them on their preferences?
  • Track people inside shops with wifi-tracking, analyze their movements in the shop and thus place advertising on the counter?

Conceptual history of locating privacy:

  • The body (habeas corpus): physical privacy.
  • The home: physical privacy + private space.
  • The letter: physical privacy + closed ‘space’ between homes.
  • The telephone: ‘closed’ ‘space’ between homes.
  • Mobile phone: ‘closed’ ‘space’.
  • The computer: protecting data, not spaces.
  • The cloud: loss of location.

The home evaporates. There is a lot of information that now one can access without entering a home. And, usually, looking inside without entry is allowed. Same happens now with technology and digital data. The public space is increasingly becoming privacy-sensible: increased traceability, increased identifiability (face recognition, augmented reality)…

And with the trend to improve body functions through implants and prosthesis, the body itself sort of becomes a “public space” as its data (including brain stimuli) can be exported out of the body.

It is increasingly difficult to draw the technical distinction between traffic data and content of communications, particularly on an Internet context. The distinction, indeed, is becoming less relevant, as traffic data are also increasingly privacy-sensitive (location, profiling).


  • Data protection law cannot give individuals control over their data.
  • Too much confidence in the controller/regulator: the law is becoming too complex.
  • Regulating everything in one statutory law: impossibility for comprehensiveness.

What is privacy?

  • The right to be let alone.
  • Controlling information about oneself.
  • Freedom from judgement of others.
  • Freedom from unreasonable constraints.
  • Depends on the context.

More information

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IDP2015 (VI). Smart cities II

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Smart cities II
Chairs: Ismael Peña-López

DCCPP = PRIVACY BY DESIGN Direct Current Communications & Privacy Protocol (DCCPP) proposed for a privacy protective DC Smart Grid
E.M. Wesselingh, P. van Willigenburg, H. Stokman

A new system to manage appliances where privacy is built in by design.

This is a two layer DC smart-grid. The first layer is the home environment with many appliances that use DC electrical energy such as laptops and tablets, smartphones, TVs, LED lights. The second part of the proposed design covers the street-side of the electrical distribution grid. Separating these grids, a higher degree of safety and privacy is enabled.

De-mediation processes and their impact on legal ordering –Lessons l. earned from Uber conflict
Mariona Rosell-Llorens

Some norms regarding ICTs have proven to be ineffective (e.g. intellectual property rights), though some efficacy depends on acceptance. What makes a city smart is to profit from its community’s input. Seems like the grounds of law are disconnected fro current practices. The theory of the legal system is not receptive enough. Better laws need better legal theory.

De-mediation processes and Uber: de-mediation is related with autonomy. ICTs and appservices provide individuals a capacity ofr acting without interference of traditional intermediaries. Autonomy understood in the sense of empowerment, user participation, community building.

But then participants experience law. What happens when participants by-pass the formally enacted law? How participants experience legality thanks to ICTs?

We maybe need a better informed legal theory, based on social grounds. It is not a matter of legitimacy, but a better informed norm. We need more reasonable and sensible laws, “new” conceptual tools.

Barrio Digital [digital neighbourhood]: the way towards the digital city
Manuel Dávila Sguerra

The idea of the project was the creation of a smart city within the Minuto de Dios neighbourhood in Engativá (Bogotá). 1,200 students geolocated data from the neighbourhood. This enabled a next step consisting in adding the “social layer” to the map.

1,075 shoppers where characterized. The shoppers were trained by the students so that they learnt how to use certain devices and access to information.

Augmented reality was used to put services on the map, including cultural venues, so that the citizen could know what was around him, just by using their smartphone on the street.

Courses on digital literacy, especially for disabled people.

Bottom-up vision: the smartest cities are the ones that embrace openness, randomness and serendipity.


Ismael Peña-López: how do we tell the difference between adapting the law to fair practices and legalizing unfair behaviours? Mariona Rosell-Llorens: while we should keep safe some important principles, it is also true that society is increasingly complex and, thus, the traditional way of approving a law — mostly with a dominant top-down approach — is outdated and should be complemented with a higher observation (even concurrence) of what happens on the street, a more bottom-up approach.

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IDP2015 (V). E-government and transparency

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

E-government and transparency
Chairs: Agustí Cerrillo

And open and transparent government paradigm in middle Spanish municipalities: the case of Quart de Poblet
Joaquín Martín Cubas, Laura Juan y Juan Medina Cobo

The open government initiative was about creating a dialogue, between the citizen, the Administration and the political representatives.

The issue of the digital divide has been addressed with a digital literacy programme. A programme that, beyond just literacy, it was aimed at social inclusion.

Open government is transparency, but not just transparency: it is a new organizational model.

Participation in the new open government initiative was inspired by Irekia, the open government platform of the Basque government.

Transparency for the sake of transparency? Or to achieve an open government? An opportunity for innovation in the governance of the university
Gemma Geis Carreras, Annaïs Varo Barranco, Daniel Cantalosella Font

The application of the new Catalan Law on Transparency made the University of Girona decide that they would implement an open government initiative in the university.

The project includes not only knowledge diffusion and accountability, but also opening up platforms and channels for participation.

The new portal also features the electronic seat of the University of Girona, which includes electronic voting features.

Transparen cities, intelligent procurement. Analysis of the impact of ICTs in procurement transparency in municipalities
Jordi Romeu Granados, Gregorio Juárez Rodríguez, Carmen Pineda Nebot

Theoretical framework: public procurement, transparency in public procurement, smart cities.

Analysis of different municipalities and their use of public procurement. 22 indicators that build the ITCA index, including the profile of the public contractor, the ITA 2014 from Transparency International and what applies by the Spanish Transparency Law 19/2013.

Findings say that more transparency in procurement highly correlates with transparency in general, an aim for innovation and work towards a smart city paradigm, etc.


Q: what is the cost of such initiatives? Juan Medina: It depends. On the one hand, some infrastructures are expensive. But, on the other hand, changing the way the Administration works and, most especially, changing the attitudes of the public representatives is almost costless. And the impact may be much higher than putting up costly projects without change of attitudes.

Jordi Romeu: there is a problem in measuring open government and it is that measuring usually ends at the output level, and almost never reaches the outcome level.

11th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2015)

IDP2015 (IV). Internet, Politics and Society

Notes from the 11th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: Regulating Smart Cities, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 2-3 July 2015. More notes on this event: idp2015.

Internet, Politics and Society
Chairs: Rosa Borge

New democratic movements, political culture and models of democracy
José Luis Martí, Laura Roth

We are beginning to contest the assumption that not voting is not participating in politics. And it is increasingly clear that it is not so: participation in extra-representative politics is becoming more important and will most likely be. Under this new train of though, what should be the profile of the “good citizen” in terms of political participation and engagement?

There is a first factor that needs being reframed. Most literature on social capital, participation in organizations, etc. seems not to be fitting what current ways of participation are to be found in new social and political movements. It looks like citizens begin to have new approaches, new attitudes, new cultures of participation that are just not compatible with old school participation models.

Four models:

  • The traditional model: citizens are like readers that read the “book of ideas” of their representatives. But little more.
  • The accountability model: addedd to “reading the book”, they can comment on it, they can compare what they see with their own position, etc.
  • The participative model: citizens are also authors of the “book” while representatives are like “editors” who put the ideas or proposals into practice. New values like toerance, equity. Also new skills.
  • Networked democracy: citizens are authors, editors and readers of the “books” created by the collective. This model is a total rupture with the preceding models.

Open politics and participation. The case of Podemos
Vicenta Tasa Fuster, Anselm Bodoque Arribas

There is a confrontation between what some call old politics and new politics, the latter being characterized by an intensive use of technology and highly valuing participation.

Participation: in a democratic sense, participation only has sense if it is permanent, open, free and deliberative (Joan Subirats).

Podemos has fostered participation, but it has decreased over time, and never reached 50% of the members of the party. They use a combination of platforms and tools (Appgree, Loomio, Reddit, Impulsa, the Talent Bank, Doodle, TitanPad, Google Groups and Google Drive, etc.).

When it comes to internal organization, it is difficult to tell new from old politics. But in matters of participation, there may be a difference.

After several participation processes, the average in Spain is that only 27% of the members of the party participated in voting for their representatives to be secretary general in their respective regions. For the primary elections (March 2015) participation was even lower (circa 23%).

Why this low participation when the party self-defines itself as participatory? ESpecially relevant, as the newcomers should be, in theory, highly motivated. And the barriers to vote were very low, as they only required and ID and a connection to the Internet. Different reasons:

  • Different degree of organization and definition of the own interests: there are many ways in which people participate.
    • People that always participate.
    • People that only participate in some specific issues of their interest.
    • Partisans that are not very organized.
    • Partisans that never participate.
  • Gender divide. Women usually have less time to participate, due to domestic burdens, sheer discrimination, etc.
  • Digital divide. Relevant if the main (if not the only) means to participate is digital and requiring high digital skills. In addition, we know that there is a gender divide within the digital divide.
  • Different reasons of the partisans. Most leaders in Podemos are men, and many topics raised in the participation platforms are genuinely masculine.

Digital divide and gender
María José Senent Vidal

We see that the digital divide has an important gender component, especially when it comes to usage and advanced uses (second and third digital divides).

  • Ability to access.
  • Ability and control of use.
  • Advanced uses, participation in processes of decision and creation.


  • Right to digital inclusion.
  • Overcoming of stereotypes.
  • Technological empowerment.


Albert Batlle: is Podemos faking participation but its design is aimed at making participation difficult? Bodoque: It is not clear. There seems to be an opposition of factors and values. On the one hand, Podemos was born thanks to participation, on the other hand, the more the party grows, the more difficult to manage participation. It is also true that the decrease in participation may also be due to the fading of the newness factor and tiredness of several participation processes.

David Martínez: how sustainable are these new forms of political participation? Can we put into practice such a model of democracy? José Luís Martí: the 15M was not about decision-making, was about deliberation. This is a difference with Podemos, which is a party and wants to make decisions, but it also gives some ideas on the nature of Podemos and what they think about participation: it’s about deliberation, and about doing it outside of the institutions, on one’s everyday life. On the other hand, it is not only internal participation that matters, but also general participation of the citizen.

José Luís Martí: it has been said that participation in Podemos was low. But, how do we tell low from high? How do we compare? Vicenta Tasa: there are two clear concentric circles in Podemos, one that leads and participates the whole time, another one in the periphery and with much less engagement. Anselm Bodoque: it’s true, that in general terms people in Podemos participate, deliberate and vote much more than in other political parties. But still, one would expect like more excitation in the ranks of Podemos.

Anselm Bodoque: it is important to highlight the motivation factor and the false sense of equality in participation. It is just not true that everyone participates in equal conditions in participatory processes: some people organize and some don’t. And the ones that organize are more effective and efficient that the lone wolves.

11th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2015)

About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. Since november 2013 I am on a partial leave to join Open Evidence as a senior researcher and analyst. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.