P15 Making cities smarter using digital co-production

Panel Chairs:
Anna Uster, Trui Steen, Taco Brandsen, Veiko Lember and Bram Verschuere

Corresponding Chair:
Anna Uster, avshan@gmail.com

Smart cities are known by using a range of digital technologies in an urban area operating as one big data-driven ecosystem. The main goal is to manage resources efficiently to improve citizens’ living experiences. Using technology enables effective responses to many local social issues like urban planning, transportation, tackling poverty, etc., while increasing abilities for citizens’ co-production in local decision-making and implementation. Digital co-production enables the analysis and processing of insights optimizing the work of bureaucrats while managing local wicked issues. Many examples can be seen around the world of local authorities using diverse online civic engagement technologies as a platform for citizens’ participation. These platforms allow citizens to put forward ideas, collaborate on projects, and discuss how to improve their neighborhoods.

However, as citizens participate through technological platforms, co-production has become a “tool of visibility” for local politicians enhancing their internal and external legitimacy.  Most of the co-production process remains at the level of “consultation with the citizens” while incorporation of their insights in decision-making processes and collaboration during implementation is limited. Thus, being a smart city using such digital tools does not always provide effective co-production. Moreover, there is a tension between the will of politicians initiating digital co-production to gain legitimacy through democratic processes, and the pursuit of bureaucrats to manage digital co-production effectively in the known traditional top-down structure.

Taking the above into account, recommended topics and questions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The effectiveness of ICT tools in co-production;
  • The effects of digital co-production on citizens’ and bureaucrats’ perceptions regarding citizens’ engagement in local processes;
  • Enhancing transparency and legitimacy through digital co-production;
  • Whether co-production through technology provides more representation and equity; or whether, in contrast, it disempowers citizens through algorithmic manipulation, or in-transparency of collection and use of citizens’ data;
  • The tension between democracy and bureaucracy using digital co-production;
  • Institutional factors affecting the ways of technology implementation enhancing co-production.

Comparative research on diverse tools in co-production processes in different local cultural and structural contexts are more than invited.