Rabin Baldewsingh: ‘Cities function like networks these days’

Voorafgaand aan het Smart City Event is vice-voorzitter van de DSA Rabin Baldewsingh, wethouder gemeente Den Haag, geïnterviewd over de grootste uitdagingen voor het creëren van een succesvol smart city project, de samenwerking tussen private en publieke partijen en de manier waarop burgers worden betrokken in een smart city project.

1. What is a Smart City in your opinion, and which do you believe is the best Smart City in the world?

In The Hague we have formulated a Smart Cities Roadmap with parties in the Triple Helix. Here we define a Smart City as one which has found a clever way to manage and accommodate people and means, through the use of technology. This accommodation of assets is aimed at a better living environment, and the city’s sustainability and competitiveness. All of this occurs within the scope of the Quadruple Helix, and to improve the city’s self-reliance.

Every city has its own Smart City profile. Some (like ours) focus on safety, using this towards their Smart City profile. Others focus more on quality of life (Vienna), sustainability (Barcelona) or resilience (Copenhagen). We can relate most to this latter one, along with other policy aspects such as E-services, open data and decentralization of government services. This is why we maintain a close partnership with our municipal colleagues in Copenhagen, and are planning a field trip to share our thoughts. So ultimately we don’t believe there is a number-one Smart City in the world, but we do believe every city has its own set of Smart City strengths.

2. How do you see (smart city) development in your city?

In The Hague we work on Smart City/ICT development at three different levels. 1) At a district level, close to the citizens of The Hague and thus to the actual end-users of our city. 2) At the Digital City Agenda level, with close collaboration between The Hague and other cities in the Netherlands. 3) At the European level, by sharing knowledge and collaborating with other European cities in Europe-wide projects. We see the development of these three levels come together in our four focus points, all with a crossover to the Triple Helix:

  1. Connectivity in ICT infrastructure and mobile networks;
  2. E-skills, people’s digital competences and their self-reliance in terms of their place in a digital world;
  3. ICT community within the Triple Helix, and sharing our knowledge and thoughts;
  4. Open government with regard to open data.

Working within the Triple Helix is described in our Smart Cities Roadmap which we wrote with founding partners in the private sector and knowledge institutes in the region.

3. What do you think is the biggest challenge to developing a successful Smart City project?

Privacy is currently the biggest challenge we face for successful Smart City projects. Privacy can be explained in terms of cyber-security issues, but also through issues on the privacy of information. The latter is a present-day challenge we face in the healthcare sector. We recently organized an ICT  event for the healthcare sector. During the smart table sessions, we discovered there were many challenges to privacy for the end-user, and the intentions of the healthcare providers.

4. To whom is this information interesting?

  • Health insurance – They can change conditions and charges to clients
  • Cyber criminals – They can make money by selling data and information
  • Employers – A potential employer could refuse a job application because of disease symptoms.

5. Cooperation between the private and public sector is very important in creating smart cities. How can cities attract private partners and convince them to invest?

Smart Cities function as learning communities. They are a collaboration between the private and public sector. The Quadruple Helix is inseparable. By working together with the right mindset, ‘Think globally and act locally’, you can create a closed-pocket situation in which you can implement your Smart City ambitions in pilot-based projects.

Taking this as a starting point, we have signed a Letter of Intent with the founding fathers of our Smart Cities Roadmap The Hague. By committing to work together on Smart City solutions, we have formulated six projects to be set up in the first year. In doing so we can learn from each other and find the most efficient way to collaborate on public/private Smart City issues.

6. What is the most important success factor in involving citizens in a Smart City project?

Involving citizens in Smart City projects has a significant success potential if the citizens can function as an extension of the civil servant. In The Hague we believe in Haagse Kracht as we say (literally, Hague Power – Ed.). This rests on a belief in the power of the people to help to make the Smart Cities municipal policy work. Success, for example, can come from the right feedback from the right people in the city. For instance, if they have the right facilities to report issues involving public spaces, this will be a much more efficient way of reporting than when a civil servant has to do it. In another example, we could use and analyze citizens’ mobile devices to create policy involving traffic or tourism. Another success can be achieved from matching municipal policy with pre-existing citizens’ initiatives. So as we understand it, involving citizens is a huge benefit towards making a Smart City project successful.

7. What about the future? What kind of smart cities will we have by 2023?

Cities function like networks these days. These network cities have their own systems of various flows: of people, products, waste, energy, resources and water. In these cities with their flows, people make daily decisions which determine the pattern of that city. For the future of cities these people’s decisions will exercise greater influence on their surroundings and living environment, making the city’s systems more efficient and smarter. As a result, the Smart Cities of the future will be cleaner, safer, more accessible and more attractive. This is in line with our previous definition of a clever way to manage and accommodate people and means, by using technology as the future of Smart Cities.

Smart Cities will become more like circular economies with no footprint and a carbon-neutral policy. The quality of life will rise, and the city’s sustainability and competitiveness will be higher. Smart Cities of the future will be the places where you would want to live.

Vanuit de Digitale Steden Agenda verzorgen Rabin Baldewsingh en Wim Oosterveld een sprekersbijdrage op het Smart City Event op donderdag 4 juni in Amsterdam.

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