capsscewThis 6th edition of the Smart Cities World Expo 2016 has been an amazing and inspiring event, with more than 420 speakers from the five continents, 591 exhibitors and around 16,688 registered visitors. During the course of the three-day event, the congress sessions voiced leading experts and decision-makers from all around the world, and featured intense, high-quality debates about innovative solutions, current challenges and future visions to develop Smart Cities for citizens.

Among the various sessions, the  Collaborative Platforms for Digital Social Innovation and Sustainability has been of direct relevance to promote the lessons learnt via the CAPS initiative. Innovations in areas such as open data, open hardware and crowdsourc ing provide new ways of using technology to involve people, their knowledge and their assets in solving social challenges. However, these innovations are often disconnected from the public services where they can have the most impact. In this perspective, the panel was invited to animate discussions around how can cities and public institutions best support and work with these innovations to collaborate with citizens to deliver truly smart public services.

During the session, which has been chaired by Fabrizio Sestini from the European Commission, several panellists were invited to contribute to the discussion.

After a short welcome and introduction from Francesca Bria, Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer of the Municipality of Barcelona, Peter Baeck, Head of Collaborative Economy Research at Nesta, provided a short introduction to what digital social innovation is and how it can help create truly smart public services. This intervention was followed by Monique Calisti, Executive Director of Martel Innovate and Coordinator of the ChiC project, who presented how the European Commission is supporting digital social innovation through the CAPS initiative, especially through a number of projects that are specifically focused on developing smart services and applications for socially-aware citizens.

capsThe floor was then given to two panellists that discussed from different angles how innovation for the Digital Society is helping cities address urban challenges. Tomas Diez, Director of Fab Lab Barcelona, presented his work on the emerging global network of FabCities, in which leading cities world-wide commit to think global, but produce local to address urban challenges using digital platforms and their work on the FabCity project in Barcelona. Finally, Mayo Fuster Morrell, Postdoctoral fellow at the Berkman center for Internet & Society (Harvard University) and the Institute of Goverment and Public Policies (Autonomous University of Barcelona), presented her work on collaborative economy and commons based peer production at Barcelona City Council. She outlined how the city is supporting the use of collaborative platforms to enable the sharing of knowledge, skills and other non-financial resources.

The follow up discussions guided by questions collected from the audience highlighted some critical aspects that still need to be addressed for broader impact of DSI/CAPS initiatives in our cities and for our citizens. Financial sustainability is still an issue for many DSI/CAPS initiatives. Policy makers and funding authorities need to improve access to information about available resources. Sometimes what is needed from citizens/cities is not just money, but recognition, spaces, facilities and links with pre-existing networks. Also procurement practices must evolve and adjust in order to allow DSI innovators participation on a broader scale. Besides financial concerns, there are also community sustainability aspects: there is a need to enlarge the user base by engaging categories at risk of social exclusion and/or lacking digital competences. This means we all have to work more and better on bridging social capital.

Discussions are continuing among all interested stakeholders via the various media channels offered by the CAPSSI platform (capssi.eu). So we are looking forward to your input at any time.

And remember not to miss our next appointment: the DSI Fair 2017 taking place in Rome 1-2 February 2017!

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