The internet has such a grip on everyday life that it is hard to imagine, or recall, a world without it. As recently as 2001, many established businesses were still wondering if it was worthwhile having a presence online.
But, as usual, cities, the testbeds of European progress, were ahead of the curve: on 7 and 8 October 1993, just over two years after the first ever website was launched, the Declaration of Manchester was signed by the cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Birmingham, Bologna, Den Haag, Hull, Cologne, Leeds, Lille, Manchester, Nantes, Nice, and Nottingham. This was the start of Telecities, a network ensuring that cities would reap the full benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) for their citizens while being aware of the threats that this new world posed.
The original document states: “The Telecities Network is an EUROCITIES initiative launched as a working group of cities wishing to work together to develop the potential of telematics in the urban environment”. The specific aims were:
Economic development and strategies to tackle unemployment, including teleworking
Social development and improved quality of life
New solutions to fight social exclusion
Maximising the resources available to cities in order to support regeneration projects
This network was a reaction to conferences that mainly united ICT organisations and was focused only on technological aspects and the desire to be more proactive - cities saw the need, early on, to ensure that humans, not technology for its own sake, remained the focus of policy. Thus the participants from cities brought together both ICT and policy experts. A year after the launch, Telecities was a network of 24 European cities. Today, 25 years later, more than 150 cities or regions are members of what is now called the EUROCITIES Knowledge Society Forum.
Throughout these 25 years, the priorities and themes of working groups vary and fluctuate as the chairs and vice-chairs are elected for a period of two years. Many themes also reappear after a period of absence, under another name, or focus on another aspect.
The true value of the network lies in the exchange and enrichment of experiences and ideas focusing not only on the technology but primarily on the context in which it is embedded. EUROCITIES is the voice of the participating cities, and with their cooperation works tirelessly to improve the way cities use technology for their residents on a daily basis.
But what will the next 25 years hold for us? What will our cities look like? What should we focus on? Here are a few ideas from our president, secretary general, and active participants.
Daniël Termont (Mayor of Ghent, President of EUROCITIES 2016-2018):
“I call on all of my colleagues within the Knowledge Society Forum: keep sharing knowledge, keep working on new ICT applications, in order to improve city life in the next 25 years to come. Involve creative citizens, open up code and sets of data (within the boundaries of privacy regulations), support the use of new techniques to increase the well-being of all citizens.”
Anna Lisa Boni (EUROCITIES Secretary-General, third Telecities' manager):
“In my view, the city in 25 years, is a city where the forces of government, the market regulations, the private sector, technology, and the urban commons are in balance. It is a city where you would have solutions thought and designed by the people who’d use and take responsibility for them. And technology would be a positive enabler. I believe this is a potential of our societies and democracies that is not really capitalised on in our cities.”
Martine Delannoy (Digipolis, Ghent, long-term active participant of KSF):
"I think we can expect much more disruption through ICT in the next 25 years. Creativity is the key and through the means of technology everything is possible. I hope there will also be an increase in the strength and tools of networks working together on common 'wicked' challenges.”
Alain Verheyden (long-term participant of KSF):
"Cognitive cities & societies, all digital city services on line 24hrs, 365 days a year”
If you have some other ideas about what can we expect from cities and ICT in the following 25 years, please, share them with us. Write an email to email@example.com and your quote (not more than 80 words) can be published on this page. Let's envisage the future together.