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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Zaragoza Sources the Code to Citizen Co-Creation

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Co-creation workshop of the open mobility challenge “Bicisur”

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

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Hola Tarjeta Ciudadana, hasta luego Wi-Fi

100ideasZgz_identificarnecesidades (1)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

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Ciudad 9000

coffee_grinderUna de las cosas que aprendimos los que nos criamos leyendo ciencia ficción, es que para que algo suceda, es necesario imaginarlo.

Todos conocemos obras en las que aparece un súper computador omnipresente y omnisciente que es capaz de servir y atender a los humanos, desde HAL 9000 de “2001, una odisea en el espacio” (del que toma el nombre este artículo), Multivac, WOPR, etc. Dejando aparte el mito del Golem que se rebela contra los humanos tan usado en estas obras, podemos decir que este ordenador empieza a existir. Es el conjunto de servicios en una ciudad.

Así que vamos a plantear una propuesta:
“Quiero que mi cafetera me despierte 20 minutos antes de que haya una bici de alquiler disponible. Y que la reserve en la parada a mi nombre” Continue reading

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City Wi-Fi pulse over a year

The traffic on the city wifi network reflects people density in the public space. In certain ways, it reflects the pulse of the city. Zaragoza celebrates its local festivals on October, 12th. Life fills the streets and the public realm gets crowded. Only that, in the digital city, the public space does not longer limits to its physical layer, but to a new Wi-Fi “virtual” layer composed of nearly 500 hotspots run by the city.

Click here for a better image resolution.

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We’d love to deepen our research on the possibilities that urban data analytics present for fostering social and economical development, as well as transparency. We imagine a scenario in which WiFi data is combined with other public aggregated data such as the citizen card, with data from telecom operators, financial transactions, utilities, and where privacy and anonimity rights are preserved by public control.

In this scenario, public control is a must to preserve citizen rights, scientific knowledge is required to “let data talk”, but also tons of artistic abilities so we can reach effectively the public with the most relevant traits of what’s behind those vast amount of data.

We are open to discuss this, and how to create a fieldwork where every actor feels comfortable and puts its best to find the new, non pollutant, limitless oil that will foster our society, our economy and our democracy.

 

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El costoso camino hacia el WiFi gratis

La conectividad, junto al talento y la disponibilidad de capital inversor, es uno de los tres pilares sobre las que las ciudades que han decidido virar su modelo económico hacia la innovación asientan sus estrategias. Desde hace más de una década, WiFi es la tecnología que nos permite estar conectados desde un mayor número de dispositivos y lugares.

Tras ser testigos de la implantación sucesiva de tecnologías inalámbricas como 2.5G, 3G y 4G, los usuarios siguen buscando puntos WiFi abiertos allá donde pueden, por razones que van desde el consumo en batería a la velocidad de datos. Consecuentemente, numerosas ciudades han promovido y promueven redes WiFi municipales para facilitar a ciudadanos y visitantes su conectividad en el espacio público. Continue reading

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