Governance for the Open (data-driven) city of 2050

Data has always played a role in the design, layout and use of the city. Rational decisions can be made and choices substantiated on the basis of data and models. In recent years, digitization has accelerated this application. Often referred to as a ‘smart city’, the collection and analysis of Big Data is seen as a solution to ever-current issues. However, the direction this application takes in shaping the built environment and urban life is not only a question of technological possibilities, legal frameworks and policy considerations.

Sennett (Building and Dwelling, 2018), introduced the typology of the “prescriptive smart city” and “coordinating smart city”. In the first case, digital technology and big data are used to exercise full control over the urban environment, with the perspective of a safe, risk-free, living environment, which – from the perspective of the data analyst – is optimally planned, with services and products that are tailored to the personal profile of the individual city dweller. A profile as determined on the basis of the available data, using non-transparent methods. This can also be referred to, following Sennett’s example, as a ‘closed’ data-driven city. In the coordinating smart city, which can also be referred to as the “open” data-driven city, digital technology forms the basis on which city residents can make choices. It is therefore also a basis for creativity, cooperation.

In the city of 2050, it’s all about transparency and accountability. Open does not only mean that there is room for bottom-up and coincidental developments.

Open does not only mean that developments are coordinated from the bottom up and that there is room for chance (in contrast to the top-down planned city, monitored from a bunker, where decisions are made in a black box). Open also means that there is complete transparency, transparency in all directions between the public sector, the citizen and the private sector. In this way, citizens can keep a grip on (spatial) developments, be actively involved in the design and functioning of the city, but there is also transparency with regard to the process and the choices made in it.

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