Workshop about digital tools
In January 2023 we were with the related Smart Cities project in Barcelona and Madrid to listen how they have used digital tools to involve residents in urban development. So, in a nutshell, what were the main things we’ve learned so far? Three things were pointed out as very important by many of the interviewed:
• A united body of politicians is needed when it comes to interest in resident participation, i.e. a real interest in the residents’ influence is needed, both from the right and left wings, as well as municipality high-level officials actively striving in the same direction.
• Digital tools for resident participation is a complement, it cannot work alone. That both politicians and civil servants regularly and systematically meet the residents face-to-face is the very foundation of democracy, and also that they seek direct contact with vulnerable groups. Digital tools can then broaden participation in various ways.
• It is fundamentally important that the digital tools used are open source and that the municipality has full control over its data. Putting this in private companies is risky and also expensive. Open source also means that full transparency is possible, which is an important aspect of democracy. In addition, open source allows for interested democracy ”hackers” all over the world to contribute to the development of the system and they can also quickly act to maintain security if needed.
Back in Sweden we plan to spread knowledge about what we learned, in dialogue with both municipal representatives and civil society in a learning workshop in Gothenburg. It will be interesting to hear Swedish actors’ view on this.