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8 October 2014

Smart city? City of the future? Digital city?

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Many are the adjectives that have been used to describe towns and cities in the last decades, and we sometimes ask ourselves what in fact the differences are.

In the 1990s, Aveiro became “the” pilot Digital City in the spirit of the Operational Programme of the Information Society (POSI) at the time. Definition by the article accompanying the expression may seem strange to many who wish to enthusiastically defend the projects of the many towns included in the “Digital Cities” in the POSI (or in its successor the POSC) and they were indeed numerous.

In truth, what characterized Aveiro as unique at the time (and later extended to the subsequently eliminated Association of Local Authorities of the Aveiro Estuary) was exactly what separates the definitions of Digital City and Smart City: a vision of territorial management where competitiveness, human and social capital, mobility, environment, governance and quality of life are orchestrated by information technologies, with these being the means rather than the end. A digital town is one full of information technology but where the citizen is never, or hardly ever, at the centre.

Naturally, in a smart city, all dynamics are integrated by information technologies: but these are the means. Technology monitors statistics, facilitates the creation of new companies and business models, allows the reading and analysis of information provided by sensors, more informed decision-making, facilitates training and information, citizen participation, helps residents and operators to manage physical and virtual mobility, allows monitoring of well-being, accompanying recovery or even early detection of the development of citizens’ neurological capacities. It allows savings in water and energy consumption, helps produce clean energy sources and even the use of public lighting to transmit information, facilitates citizen interaction and experience, and allows development of new ways to experience culture, learn and visit the rich heritage found in the surroundings.

Águeda has tried to highlight small interventions, try out innovative solutions and stimulate company innovation. It has done this knowing that it is necessary to make mistakes and take risks, doing so in a controlled way to gain maturity in all actors but with a vision of the future in the background. The Local Authority Pact, Mayors’ Adapt, the European Partnership for Innovation, Administrative Modernization and Living Labs are resounding expressions forming a dynamic plan. 

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