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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

Darwin at the Information Society: adaptation (and benefits) or extinction

On Wednesday 10th June 2009, I’m giving a conference at the Centre d’Estudis Jurídics i Formació Especialitzada, Justice Department of the Government of Catalonia (Spain). It is framed in the Web Sessions series to debate about the changes and impacts of the Information Society. My conference is called Darwin a la societat de la informació: adaptació (i beneficis) o extinció (Darwin at the Information Society: adaptation (and benefits) or extinction).

[click here to enlarge]
[cliqueu aquí per a una versió en català]

As the presentation shows, the speech is made up of four parts or general ideas:

  1. The industrial era — or the industrial economy — is based (among many other things) on two main issues: scarcity and transaction costs. These two limitations have shaped the world as we know it, especially institutions: schools, parties and governments, firms, civic associations… When shifting towards a knowledge based economy, both issues of scarcity and transaction costs fall down into pieces. Will institutions, and intermediation in general, follow?
  2. Second part is an overview on some of these institutions, and how their models and, sometimes, their sheer survival is threatened by these radical changes on costs and scarcity. Some will violently disappear, some will just fade, some will suffer adaptations along the following years. All in all, it’s about the risk of exclusion from society — not digital exclusion —, the risk of becoming worthless.
  3. Thus, there might be a need for new (digital) competences to face the present and the nearest future. These competences (to be acquired both by individuals and institutions) will be necessary to interact with each other and rebuild how we learn, work, or engage in politics or everyday life.
  4. To foster the acquisition of these competences some policies to foster the Information Society will have to be put to work, and the role of the government seems to be a crucial one

I will conclude that it all is a matter of bringing on changes while making sense of them.

More information

I want to heartily thank Jordi Graells for giving me the excuse — actually, to push me — to sit down and put together some ideas that had been rambling on my mind for some time. The title is his and it was great inspiration that helped me in weaving those ideas together. Not surprisingly, his work with the Catalan e-Justice Community (Compartim) is a most inspiring one too.