5G Deployment and the Socio-Digital Divide

by Jon Glasco

Photo by Rodrigo De Mendoza on Unsplash

Consider a future scenario when social and digital inclusion are interconnected in the lives of most citizens. Think of this as an optimistic scenario in which higher social inclusion is enabled by new bridges across the digital divide.

Where does 5G technology fit in this scenario? Will 5G serve as one of the ‘new bridges’? An issue raised at the 2019 Smart City Expo in Barcelona is whether deployment of 5G networks and services will contribute to inclusive cities envisioned in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To paraphrase various sources from the Expo: “5G has the potential power to decrease the digital divide and ultimately increase social inclusion while helping cities achieve the SDGs.”

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How urban data reveals the hidden life behind cities

Routes taken by a student in the XVI district of Paris, by Chombart de Lauwe. 1952

According to a recent survey by the EFPS (European Foundation for Progressive Studies) and the Felipe González Foundation, online privacy stands as one of the main worries for our young generation alongside gender equality and climate change.

Our personal data (our “digital fingerprint”) can be used, as Black Mirror demonstrates, to make our life impossible. It can also be used to do business with us, the consumer, and sell us goods which we never even knew we would want. Or, as we now know from the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, to try to convince us to vote against our own interests, that is, against ourselves.

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Situationists For Open City Makers

Amongst the “avant garde” revolutionary intellectuals, the situationists were one of a kind. Though they were few, they often were waging battles under the leadership of a young Guy Débord to surpass other contemporary movements such as letterism and surrealism.

Quoting Carlos Granés about situationists: “in a society that annihilates adventure, the only adventure is to annihilate society”. With such an overwhelming enterprise in mind, it is not surprising that this avant-garde group quickly suffered from their own contradictions, for their fondness of purges and procrastination rather than practical action. However, their intellectual footprint in the arts, politics and urbanism has filtered through to our times, through movements like the Spanish 15M or America’s “Occupy”.

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Innovation Districts. ¿Growth or Decline?

Translated from its Spanish version by Nicolas Cook

This week, I travelled to the Barcelona Real Estate Exhibition to take part in a session on the current status of innovation districts; the laudable urban concept which originated in the late 90s. My presentation was to take place on Friday 18th of October, the day of the General Strike. A wise friend of mine from Barcelona therefore recommended I take abundant reading matter for the trip, in case of long delays on trains and in stations. I was headed to the Catalan capital – a flagship of urban innovation – to share ideas on innovation districts, such a clear example of global knowledge flows. As my travelling companion, then, I chose Professor Manuel Castells’s “Space of Flows” (the latest volume of his key work “The Network Society”).
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Sentimental Urban Planning

Translated from its Spanish version by Nicolas Cook

Android theme “The Sentimental City”

I watched “Interstellar” a while back, a movie in which the human race escapes from climate disaster using an artefact of theoretical physics known as a “Wormhole”. I once wrote that que the most sensible way of avoiding an environmental “Armageddon” would be to put intelligent urban planning into practice as soon as possible, which encourages cities of certain densities, with mixed uses, and with active public spaces. Intelligent urban planning is rational, or perhaps enlightened. It provides a basis for a sustainable mobility, for energy savings in building construction and management, and for an economy that is less intensive in its use of materials and energy – more circular.

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When Bikes Are Powered, Not By Burning Calories, But By Innovation

Bike Innovation
My old Zeus at the Open Urban Lab

Bike industry in Spain is worth 1.6 Billion Euros, and is being powered by innovation. Going electric, smart training devices, new materials, security, Mobility As a Service, are all innovation paths fueling the sector.

Beginning in 2008 with the launch of the public bike system BiZi, cycling infrastructures such as cycling lanes have spread lately all across Zaragoza, making the city much more bike friendly than it used to be, despite its harsh weather, with hot summers and alternate long streaks of windy and foggy days.  This is part of the strategy to shift towards a smarter, greener mobility mix.

And in fact, biking is one of the paths that will bring safer, healthier and more sustainable cities, and that is why we are proud to announce that next Thursday, 13th Dec, at Zaragoza’s Open Urban Lab, we will be co-designing the future Spanish Lab for Innovation in Bikes and Cycling, part of the Spanish Bike Strategic Plan. A work we do for ConBici and Dirección General de Tráfico.

Note: This is part of a series of efforts to fuel the development of the bike sector thr innovation, beginning with the celebration, in September 2018, of the first hackathon of mobility visualization.  We hope that this will go on.

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Zaragoza: The Power of Citizen Innovation

Pedestrian boardwalk towards Zaragoza's Etopia Center for Arts and Technology

Pedestrian boardwalk towards Etopia by Leonid Andronov (Source iStock)

By Jon Glasco

(Originally published at Bee Smart City.)

Fifteen years ago, Zaragoza – the historic Spanish city situated between Madrid and Barcelona – pioneered a vision of a future digital district and knowledge-based society. Since then, the city has developed an impressive portfolio of smart city projects and new urban services. According to Daniel Sarasa, Urban Innovation Planner, one of Zaragoza’s unique strengths is its culture of citizen involvement and participation. This culture has its roots in the reawakening of democracy. In the late 1970s, the city of Zaragoza (like other cities in Spain) looked back on thirty five years of dictatorship – and looked ahead to an uncertain future. During the years of dictatorship, Zaragoza had grown in population from approximately 235,000 to more than 500,000, but the civic infrastructure and public services needed to support this urban growth were inhibited by an autocratic national government which maintained severe austerity measures.

With democracy regaining a foothold in the early 1980s, the citizens of Zaragoza knew that the recovery of their communities and the development of civic infrastructure would depend on them taking matters into their own hands. From this awareness was born a grass-roots determination and pride-of-community mindset to reclaim rights to the city and to build new infrastructure. This resulted in citizen-inspired plans and actions to build neighborhood civic centers, kindergartens, centers for the elderly, public libraries and sport centers.

In the early years of democracy, citizens and city planners in Zaragoza could not have imagined that, decades later in the early 21st century, the city would become a leader in making the transition from a technology-centric to a citizen-centric smart city vision. Trust in citizen-inspired innovation was embedded in Zaragoza’s culture, waiting to be nurtured and developed. >> Read full article

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