Is Brussels a smart city-region? Do you know what are the urban, social and economic implications of ICTs and how could technology contribute to a more inclusive city? We already wrote an article about ‘Smart city Brussels’ after the government of the Brussels-Capital Region organized a large event about this topic in 2016. Development of smart cities has nowadays become a standard goal for many cities and regions, in order to improve the quality of life in Brussels and actively involve in the digital transition of the region.

As the website smartcity.brussels indicates – The smart city project brings together the needs of its inhabitants, the challenges of our age and the benefits that the digital revolution can provide in both these fields. The Brussels-Capital Region pursues its own smart city strategy under the name smartcity.brussels. In particular it incorporates the ambition to transform Brussels into a digital hub.

Pakhuis de Zwijger from Amsterdam is an institution that organizes regular events on urban issues and those who are interested in this topic should try to attend their upcoming event ‘Smart Citizen Talks’ on 18th January 2017. We felt inspired to share the description and questions which are raised in the announcement of this event.

Half a century ago, the television and communication technology was debated between apocalyptic visions and integrated-optimistic opinions. Today, we debate technological innovation in the same way: are Information and Communication damaging social relations or are instead an opportunity to build a new, better, society? This question is at the center of any technological innovation and we should not stop to ask it. What is the impact, and are opportunities and risks of ICTs for contemporary cities?

After three decades of innovation in ICTs, we see today two different ways to link technology and cities. On the one hand, ICTs are becoming unavoidable, or even driving tools in understanding, mapping and planning cities and regions. Sometimes are used as evocative ‘solutions’ to undefined problems. In this case, ICTs are instrument used by planners, architects, politicians and large corporations to map human relations. On the other hand, we see that technology is becoming increasingly ‘popular’ or ‘democratic’ , offering opportunities to large groups of individuals to raise demands and voices about urban spaces. These practices stress the emancipatory capacity of ICTs for creative innovation and better urban citizenship.

These trends are usually, and mistakenly, combined under one elusive idea of smart cities, smart urbanism and/or smart communities.

The smart city strategy for Brussels revolves around four challenges that respond to key issues for the development of the Region: a connected Region, a sustainable Region, an open Region, a safe Region. It would be great to see more discussions about these topics in our city and debate the different urban, social and economic implications of ICTs and try to find out under which spatial, social and economic conditions technology can be truly inclusive.

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