BOLD Cities co-signs national Smart Society Declaration; stresses importance of including citizens

At the closing conference of the 'Nederland Digitaal' (Netherlands Digital) Days, the Centre for BOLD Cities co-signed a national declaration on the smart society. In the declaration, national and local government, as well as partners from knowledge institutions and corporations, express their intention to co-operate and help innovate and develop the Dutch 'smart society'.

'Citizens' voices must be heard'

In a session dedicated to this theme, BOLD Cities researcher Jiska Engelbert stated that Dutch citizens must actively be involved and consulted in the further development of the digital society. Although Fundamental rights and ethics in the digital age is listed as a main pillar in the Dutch Digitalisation Strategy, the people that actually live in and make a city tend to be overlooked, she argued - industry-focused questions on infrastructure and tendering appear to prevail.

Jiska Engelbert at Nederland Digitaal

‘Citizens should not only be involved, but their voices must be heard as well,’ Engelbert said. ‘The smart city has to become more of a political issue.’ In her argument, Engelbert mentioned the Centre for BOLD Cities' SHARED values, which can help ensure the sustainable and inclusive participation of citizens in digital developments.

Engelbert’s argument was backed by other panel members, including Eindhoven city council member Eva de Bruijn (GroenLinks), who pointed out that that ‘citizens can only join the discussion if they know which of their personal data are actually used.’ Only then, De Bruijn noted, can citizens’ questions and concerns obtain a more central role in smart city developments.

'Like oil, data needs to be refined'

The plenary session of the Nederland Digitaal Conference featured Mona Keijzer, State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, as well as Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian as a keynote speaker. Varian focused on the opportunities of data-driven technologies for (new) enterprises, stating that ‘data may be called “the new oil”, but raw data is not very useful. Like oil, it needs to be refined.’

Following Varian’s presentation, Catelijne Muller and Aimee van Wynsberghe (TU Delft) introduced their ALLAI (Alliance on Artificial Intelligence) initiative. 'Technology does not just overcome us,' Muller said. 'It's not gravity.' Their organisation aims to help involve all relevant stakeholders in the process of achieving Responsible AI - claiming that the key should be 'human in command'.

Despite its apparent focus on business and economics, the Nederland Digitaal conference therefore underlined the importance in broadening the scope for a digital society from a triple to a quadruple helix.


More information
Nederland Digitaal website
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