From smart to political: Local councils in/and smart city decision-making

BOLD Cities believes it is important that citizens and administrators are able to understand, assess and manage the digitalization and the use of (big) data in municipalities. The local council is perhaps the most important link between citizens and administrators, and therefore has a crucial role to play in this regard. 

This project explores if and how local democratic institutions (can) feature in decision-making around cities’ “smart” projects and ambitions. Focusing on the way in which the municipal councils of the five largest cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Utrecht and The Hague) have engaged with smart city decision-making since 2010, this project investigates if and under what conditions “smart” and “digital” cities are and can be made into issues of local democratic and political concern. Not only does this project aim to contribute to carving out opportunities for local representatives to claim political agency; it also constitutes the first, systematic effort that empirically assesses and addresses the actual and electoral politics of smart city development.  

Running from October 2021 to August 2022, this project has three objectives:

  • To construct a large dataset that allows for a systematic quantitative and qualitative exploration of if and how smart cities themes and projects feature in local council meetings, committees and decision between 2010 and 2022.
  • To engage in dialogue with local councillors and broader publics and networks about how (local) politics can be written into the smart city.
  • To translate the project’s finding into a publicly available toolkit with tactics and tips for claiming political agency in/on the smart city.  For this latter part, we collaborate with the  Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA)