According to the World Bank for the first time in history the majority of global population lives in urban areas. Every day cities grow by 180.000 inhabitants of which 30% settle in the poor-belts and make the suburbs grow in a mainly uncontrolled manner. This migration and growth entails an increasing challenge on city leaders not only for housing but also for environmental issues as well as safety and security of existing systems.
People and their living conditions, their demand for opportunities and prosperity play a major role for the sustainable development of a city. ICTs are setting a new landscape for analyzing a society in order to make it interact and collaborate and to empower its citizens to develop their initiatives, fostering creativity and innovation. Availability of ICT therefore is key. While in developed countries, cities have to deal with their obsolete industrial economies and aging populations the use of ICT is wider spread however often less innovative than in developing countries where population is younger and more naturally using ICT.
Changing structures in ICT influence social behavior and impact expectations as well as the role of citizens. Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World-Wide-Web) said: “The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world.” The development of the web from products and services’ distribution logics being uni-directional, organized in a taxonomic and hierarchic way to a multi-directional interactive system impacts business models and social behavior. However this trilogy doesn’t progress at the same pace. According to US research, so Peter Kageyama, producer of Creative-Cities-Summit, at Smart City Expo World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, 40% of US citizens feel unattached to the city they live in, 36% are indifferent and only 24% – mainly with higher education and GDP – feel attached. Key is to improve the identification of citizens with their environment in order to change their role from pure inhabitants to creators and contributors for prosperity of a city. Therefore the impact of involvement has to be visible. This is challenge and chance for city authorities on their way to open governments. Even when having set up e-government most cities “think” in a uni-directional way rather than in a civic network that is polycentric, multi-directional and collaborative. City authorities are stuck in a web 1.0 stage.
If a city misses to incorporate the interaction with citizens there is the latent but growing danger to loose control and risk a volatile system. Citizens – increasingly used to collaborate in social networks – bypass regulations. While Arabic Spring is an example of how social media is used to bypass law on a national level, in the city of Helsinki, for example, citizens used Facebook to overcome the long process of getting a restaurant permit by calling out the “Helsinki open kitchen day”. Citizens cook and give out food in their private homes – all on the same day knowing that authorities have no chance to react due to the amount of households participating.