Until recently much of the debate as to what makes a smart city, and the technology and innovation to reach that goal, has been driven by governments and corporate technology companies. However, there is a growing realisation that this ‘top-down’ approach leads to proprietary systems that often overlook the most important element of the city – the citizen. It is only by bringing individuals, communities and businesses into the debate that innovative, bespoke solutions can be designed through local innovation that can be replicated, leading to global collaboration (Hemment, D. & Townsend, A. 2013 pp1-3).
Open4Citizens (2016) is a Collective Awareness Platform (CAPS) project that puts the citizen at the centre of new technology, in this case access to data. Its aim is to give all citizens the means to benefit from the huge amount of data generated by cities, described as “open air data factories”.
By creating a platform for citizens to collaborate Open4Citizens will harness this resource, raising awareness of its availability, how to access it and how to use it. Most importantly they want to create a circle whereby data collected within a smart city is used where it is most important – for improving the lives of the citizens that generate it, thus allowing citizens to play a pivotal role in creating the city of the future through an innovative, collaborative ‘bottom-up approach’ that responds to their needs (Hemment, D. & Townsend, A. 2013 pp1-3).
Government does have a role to play in this process by providing the infrastructure to allow access and ensuring it’s accessible and usable to everyone and not just those with coding skills (Maltby, P. 2013 pp57-61). But access and usability on their own are not enough and governments need to set aside their risk-aversion, self-interest and bureaucracy to allow innovations to flourish; good projects that have come out of community initiatives and hackathons are often failed to be adopted and a change in political approach is needed to remove barriers to innovation and truly involve the citizen (Madriz, M. 2013 pp67-70).
Hemment, D. & Townsend, A. Ed. (2013) Smart Citizens, pp1-3. Future Everything Publications. Available at: http://futureeverything.org/ideas/smart-citizens-publication/ [accessed 23 April 2016].
Madriz, M. (2013). Hemment, D & Townsend, A. Ed. Smart Citizens, pp67-70. Future Everything Publications. Available at: http://futureeverything.org/ideas/smart-citizens-publication/ [accessed 23 April 2016].
Maltby, P. (2013). Hemment, D & Townsend, A. Ed. Smart Citizens, pp57-61. Future Everything Publications. Available at: http://futureeverything.org/ideas/smart-citizens-publication/ [accessed 23 April 2016].
Open4Citizens (2016). Available at: http://open4citizens.eu/ [accessed 23 April 2016].
Collective Awareness Platform (2016). 22 New CAPS Projects in Horizon 2020. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/22-new-caps-projects-horizon-2020 [accessed 23 April 2016].