INTERVIEW: Citizens are as important to a successful smart city programme as technology and must be convinced of the benefits and security such initiatives offer, Barcelona City Hall’s chief technology and digital innovation officer explained.
Francesca Bria (pictured) told Mobile World Live data is the core of Barcelona’s smart city push. Encouraging citizens to share their information is equally as important as deploying technology to deliver smart initiatives covering healthcare, education and transportation, among others.
Describing the technological revolution as the “political challenge of the century”, Bria said it “is not just about building gadgets and new technology”. Instead, smart city initiatives must “deliver a more sustainable economic system” which is accessible to all people living in the city.
So far around 40,000 citizens of Barcelona are contributing data to the smart city programme. Bria noted “90 per cent of the data that cities produce today didn’t exist three years ago”, which presents challenges in terms of handling the influx of information, not least of which is addressing concerns “about privacy, surveillance, the right to access data.”
While data is key to improving public services, Bria noted Barcelona City Hall’s smart city programme also improves the democratic process itself by enabling people to see how the city council functions, from decision making to spending.
Bria also pointed out cities cannot go it alone in terms of smart city rollouts. She said Barcelona is partnering with cities including New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, Moscow and Dubai “to create this digital marketplace of solutions that really respond to citizens’ challenges”. The technology available today is part of the solution to such a response, along with “leveraging the real talent” housed in Barcelona, including academia, start-up companies, and citizens.
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