“Open data”, which facilitates access to public data, can ensure more efficient urban management and provide a real interface between people and digital technologies. A number of European countries, including the Netherlands, the UK and France, are figureheads of the open data movement.


What exactly is a smart city?

The concept is a rather broad one which varies according to whom you ask, but there does seem to be a consensus where the basics are concerned. When asked to define a smart city for a survey by Harris Interactive, a panel of French students agreed that the key factors were nature, ecology, the environment (air quality, green spaces, light), a good public transport system, comfort and technologies.

Jean-Louis Missika, Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of urban planning, holds a slightly different view: he points out that whilst digital technology is central, the real intelligence of a smart city is “that of the citizens themselves”. In an interview in French online mag L’Usine digitale, the Deputy Mayor acknowledges that Paris is not yet a reputed smart city, unlike say Barcelona or Singapore, despite a number of ground-breaking initiatives that have been rolled out in the field of sustainable transport, such as the Vélib’ cycle hire scheme and the more recent Autolib’ electric car-sharing service, and a number of pilot projects for renewable energy, smart grids and waste processing. Such initiatives are in line with the smart city vision of the students polled by Harris Interactive, as they focus on alternative solutions to improve citizens’ everyday lives and the efficiency of cities.
Organisations such as M2ocity, Europeansmartcities and urban and climate strategist Dr. Boyd Cohen, who have ranked the world’s smart cities, agree with this view, basing their rankings on criteria such as governance, quality of life, telecom infrastructure, energy efficiency, sustainable mobile technology, smart buildings, healthcare and education (What are the smartest cities in the world?, emedia).  The European Commission also agrees that smart cities should focus on “improving urban life through more sustainable integrated solutions,” including “applied innovation, better planning, a more participatory approach, higher energy efficiency, better transport solutions, intelligent use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).”

Can open data revolutionise smart cities?

This is precisely what the Guardian wondered (Can open data power a smart city revolution?). The article focuses on the city of Amsterdam, where opening public data has considerably improved parking, transport and energy. Thanks to a collaboration between the city council and navigation technology company TomTom, drivers in Amsterdam now have access to real-time parking information via their TomTom, which has obvious advantages in terms of reducing pollution and traffic congestion in the city. According to the senior director of non-profit foundation the Amsterdam Economic Board, Amsterdam boasts around 1,500 app designers.

Open data all over the world

According to a report by the UN (E-government survey 2014), France ranks n° 1 in Europe and 4th in the world in terms of e-government transparency, ahead of the UK and Finland. Meanwhile, the top ten countries ranked in the Open Government Awards, which rewards initiatives that expand and sustain Citizen Engagement to improve government policies and services, featured five European countries: Denmark (n° 1), Italy (n° 4), The Netherlands (n° 5), the United Kingdom (n° 6) and France (n° 10).