Today Europe’s economic challenges are matched by growing political challenges. The disruptive power of new technology is transforming both our economy and our society. We need also to harness it to rebuild our politics.
EUROCITIES 2013 Ghent will place people - not just as consumers, but as citizens, innovators, collaborators, producers and entrepreneurs - at the centre of our digital future. We will explore how a truly ‘smart city’ can only be achieved by building and releasing the smart capacity of our citizens.
By working in new ways smart citizens will drive sustainable economic growth for our cities, creating local businesses and jobs that strengthen multiplier effects and improve resilience.
Free, fast and open communication also offers smart citizens new approaches to social connection and cohesion, changing both community relations and social geography.
But, if we get it right, smart citizenship also promises a bridge to a new city politics. It can challenge the balance between government and governed, stimulating open debate and new solutions that empower people actively to ‘consult’, ‘think’, ‘express’ and ‘do’, rather than ‘be done to’.
Last year our annual conference in Nantes showcased the important contribution that city leaders and their administrations can make in re-engaging with citizens. On the front line of politics, our city politicians are best placed to connect to communities and find new solutions to the widening democratic deficit.
Sceptical of formal politics, citizens are less willing nowadays to hand power to politicians and more likely to initiate for themselves collaborative and unique solutions to the issues they face.
Increasingly, new technologies allow each of us to take part, allowing like-minded people to connect not only across the planet but also on the same street, with increasing speed and ease. These digital solutions enable citizens to build relations, share knowledge and scope alternatives. The results are community actions or business propositions that offer new ways of tackling everyday challenges, whether environmental, social or economic.
We need to harness these new ways of connecting, communicating, and collaborating to achieve the shared goals of the city, to resolve problems and deliver sustained solutions. For it is the ambition of every city leader to make their city ‘smart’ – to work better, to function more efficiently, to perform economically, to be attractive and liveable, with a strong and distinct sense of community.
It is people that make cities; people that are the source of the spark and dynamism that drives successful cities. This conference will show how there can be no smart city without smart citizens.