Back in 2003, a group of local geeks and open source advocates met with Zaragoza’s future mayor Juan Alberto Belloch who, after being the last all-mighty minister of Justice and Interior in the last of prime minister Felipe González’s cabinet, was running for office for his second term. After a short immersion in the open source community, Belloch “fell instantly in love” with Linux philosophy and quickly made open source-based innovation one of the axes of his political campaign. His plans included turning the northeastern capital of the Spanish Aragón into the “Redmond of the European free software world,” for which purpose his team projected a 102-hectare innovation district, a city-wide free public wireless network and an ambitious campaign of digital literacy, with the city hall leading and paving the way by becoming one of the most advanced European administration in systems migration towards open source software. In an article appeared in Wired in May 2003 he declared “this open source battle might not be easy, but ‘open’ is the way it must be.” Continue reading
If people are given the power to decide and be part of the decision-making process, their mark is felt all around. The city of Zaragoza manages not only to aim for active citizen participation, but to actually reinvent itself with the help of its people.
How can municipalities realize their potential for innovation?
The potential for innovation in municipalities truly lies in cities and in the citizens. There is a lot of talent in cities, hence we, the city hall and the public servants, have to make sure that we can gather as much talent and ideas as we can and put it into these Smart City projects or into the innovation process. That is the main issue and the main challenge. The reason why this is not easy is because we are so used to planning the city with a top-down perspective and it requires a complete shift from Smart City project managers or from the public servants to change their perspective. We need to open up and be able to take into account the ideas of our citizens, the ideas of our local ecosystem. Continue reading
Hace algo más de un año que una nueva corporación municipal tomó posesión en el Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza. Por lo que a nuestro trabajo respecta, una de las primeras decisiones de la nueva corporación fue asignarnos a lo que, probablemente, sea el proyecto bandera de la Zaragoza Inteligente: la tarjeta ciudadana, dejando, como contrapartida, tanto el proyecto de WiFi Zaragoza como la gestión directa de las incubadoras de empresas de la Milla Digital. Nuestra aportación al proyecto de tarjeta ciudadana de Zaragoza va en la dirección de abrirla a nuevas áreas municipales, de impulsar la co-creación de nuevos servicios a través de la innovación abierta, así como de mejorar las perspectivas de financiación de nuevas aplicaciones a través de proyectos europeos. Y es que la tarjeta ciudadana de Zaragoza es una herramienta tecnológica extraordinariamente bien diseñada y que, a nuestro juicio, tiene el potencial de convertirse en la verdadera plataforma de servicios “smart” que Zaragoza necesita. Continue reading
The Italian magazine “Luce et Design” interviewed us for its April 2016 number. We talked about topics such as urban innovation strategies, smart lighting, digital art, public space and… refugees. We share a translation of the interview in English.
Luce Et Design: What was your training course?
I had my masters degree as a Telecom Engineer at the University of Zaragoza, back in 1997. After almost twenty years of practice I added to my training a masters degree in city sciences by the Politechnic University of Madrid.
LED: On which essential techniques and strategies did you base your intervention to turn Zaragoza into a Smart City?
Zaragoza’s implementation of its own unique Digital City model will at a particularly difficult time for the both city and its inhabitants have the concept of open source as its connecting theme: open data, free software, accessible networks and open government, meaning a truly transparent and participatory administration.
In addition to this, it shall have an open code architecture which gives rise to reconfigurable buildings (“open place making”), new digital public spaces that are made up of, used and reconfigured by the public itself; spaces where they exercise their participation, grow in knowledge and strengthen their digital links with the city. Continue reading
On Jan, 29th 2015 we spoke at the “Smart energy UK & Europe Summit” in London, where we had the chance to discuss and develop the idea of advancing towards a “data sharing economy” at the urban ecosystem. What we were presenting, basically, is how a new kind of organizational relationship between urban players could eventually lead both to the creation of new social, scientific and economic value at the local scale, and to the development of new business prospects in those industries willing to play the game.
Cities have faced challenges in history with innovative ways of transforming the materials at their reach into innovative solutions. Whether we are talking about limestone, wood, brass, concrete, copper, or electrons, engineers have effectively used technology to provide security, access to drinkable water, sanitation, wired communications, or energy to households and people. Today, data is the new material upon which we can continue to develop innovative solutions to deal with the “bugs” or impracticalities (in Jane Jacobs’ words) of urban life. Continue reading
On 4th, December 2015, we spoke about “the urban innovation spiral” at the Smart Portugal event in the beautiful medieval city of Bragança, province of Tras Os Montes.
As many urban practitioners, we are increasingly interested about cities as solution providers to problems. The aqueduct of Segovia (Spain) is an example of how cities, in the Roman era, solved the problem of access to drinkable water thanks to a smart invention. Today it attracts hords of tourists while giving a distinct identity to the city. In the middle ages, city walls, like Lucca’s (Italy) gave shelter to people threatened by insecurity and pillage. In the 21st century, that wall is one of the city’s main attractions, its upper promenade offering a shady tour of the city in the hottest days of summer. But overall, in the past as well as in present times, cities have represented the quest of prosperity. Few names illustrate this pursue better than the name of “La prosperidad”, a Madrid neighborhood originally populated with migrants from southern rural Spain under the dark times of Franco’s dictatorship.
World urbanization rate grows in parallel to the decrease in illiteracy level and life expectancy. Those are fundamental, aggregate indicators. Literacy is highly correlated with our future. Life expectancy speaks mainly about our past. But, while urbanization fixes the bigger picture (famine, extreme poverty or violence, access to sanitation), it creates bugs: inequality, obesity, isolation… Many refer to the process of addressing these bugs through technology as the transition to becoming a “smart city”. Continue reading
On Dec, 2th 2015 we spoke at the “Smart cities for smart businesses” event in Córdoba (Spain), where we presented some of our latest ideas on public policies for urban innovation: specifically, on advancing towards sharing agreements between the key urban players that allow to place urban big data at the service of building sustainable engines of social and economic value.
Unexpectedly, the afternoon debate sparked an intense discussion about what the city of Córdoba could do to speed up its transition to a knowledge-based economy. We were fortunate to witness an inspiring discussion between some of the innovation stakeholders of the city: universities, entrepeneurs, researchers and City Council on the assets and opportunities that lay ahead of Córdoba’s desire to seize a more innovative future. Our contribution was targeted at dismantling some of the false clichés that might slow or paralyze such a necessary process. Continue reading