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The ‘four principles for the digital city’, adopted last year by Amsterdam and Eindhoven, are being fleshed out nationally. In a letter to its members, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten, VNG) calls on the municipalities in the Netherlands to “actively participate in the activities of the Smart Society knowledge network and take part in the process of further developing the principles”.

These four principles include the goals of digital infrastructure, the role of government and the openness of data. At the beginning of 2017, Eindhoven and Amsterdam formulated and implemented these principles on the basis of their experiences with the use of new technologies in public space. Municipalities can work with these principles within the newly established Smart Society knowledge network.


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“There are more and more sensors that collect data from residents and visitors”, says a spokesman for the municipality of Eindhoven. “Often we don’t even know about it. It is up to the public authorities to ensure access to infrastructure and to promote new opportunities for innovation. If we want to be at the forefront of digitisation and be the first to allow our citizens to benefit from innovative developments, we must ensure that it is clear to all players under which conditions we welcome new initiatives. In order to make this possible, Eindhoven and Amsterdam agreed on the rules at the beginning of 2017. “These are intended to ensure that the use of data and infrastructure is not only user-friendly but also safe, transparent and fair.”

The newly established Smart Society knowledge network is both an online and offline ecosystem and marketplace for municipalities, businesses, and knowledge institutes. In its letter to the members, the VNG asks municipalities to participate actively at an official level in the activities of the knowledge network, which contributes to the ambitions of the VNG’s Digital Agenda 2020.

These are the principles for the digital city:

1. The digital infrastructure must contribute to a liveable, healthy and safe city. The infrastructure is there for everyone in the public space of the city, regardless of their social position and income. The infrastructure is readily available and accessible and is future-proof and safe. It is set up in accordance with municipality-wide standards and European and national legislation and regulations concerning privacy and security.
2. Companies, institutions, governments and residents are producers and consumers of the digital infrastructure and the ‘smart services’ that make use of it. Together, in co-creation or alone and where this is desirable or necessary for them in order to improve the lives of citizens in the city and to help the city develop economically. Government directs and regulates where necessary to ensure access, availability and security of digital infrastructure for all in the digital city.
3. The technology used for the digital infrastructure and Internet of Things is known, secure and interoperable, has ‘open interfaces’ and ‘open protocols’ and uses ‘open standards, unless…’ to indicate otherwise at national or European level. These are leading. Residents know what equipment has been installed in ‘their environment’, have an influence on it and can make use of it.
4. Data is ‘open and shared unless…’ the laws and regulations concerning privacy and security indicate otherwise, and unless the data owner does not want to share the data. The data about the resident belongs to the resident; they are the owner and decide what happens to it. The data of the digital infrastructure collected in and about public space is public good.

In June 2017, the VNG agreed to step up its efforts to find joint implementation by municipalities in various areas. VNG in the member letter: “The fact that we can stand on the shoulders of Eindhoven and Amsterdam is a good example of the idea behind ‘Organising Together’. The working method of ‘Organising Together’ is characterised by the great involvement and control of the municipalities themselves, for example in the form of submitting projects and issues from the bottom up.”

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About the author

Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.