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Published on May 26, 2021

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Smart cities: France inspires Brazil

Some French cities are already well advanced in their transition to Smart Cities. Indeed, thanks to this digital transition, the model of a Smart City allows for a clear improvement in the efficiency of urban services, citizen participation and the attractiveness of the territory. So much so that Brazil wishes to draw inspiration from this model for São Paulo, Recife, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte. The French Development Agency is overseeing this transition, along with Egis and Datactivist.

Nantes

- Crédits : © Guillaume

Francky Trichet, Deputy Mayor of Nantes and Metropolitan Councilor, and Roberto Albuquerque Melo, Deputy Mayor of Recife, answer our questions on this model which is spreading internationally.

 

What is your definition of the smart city? How does this concept apply in your city, and what does it bring to everyday life?

Francky Trichet: In Nantes, innovation - whether democratic, economic, technological, social or cultural - is everywhere, created by and for everyone. It contributes to three major challenges: developing employment and supporting economic development; making the city easier to live in; and supporting the energy and ecological transition. Collaboration is the active principle of Nantes' "Smart City" approach.  Here, collective ingenuity is the key, both on a local and international scale. By placing residents at the heart of the strategy so that digital technology facilitates daily life and everyone can access it. By linking projects, by creating meeting places.

Roberto Alburque Melo: One could say that smart cities have to be safe and affordable, economically robust and capable of offering high-tech services to citizens. Apart from advances in technology, sensors, cameras and surveillance, we need to ask ourselves what the concept is behind these technology-run  cities is and what to do with the generated data.We believe that citizens must be listened to and involved in urban solutions. Collaborative building should be seen as a new model of government and paradigm shifts should be strongly encouraged. We seek to involve citizens in various decisions to foster innovation in Recife. Long-term competition initiatives to encourage citizens to create projects or applications for Recife, conferences and discussions on open data in Recife are proposed, held at university events, for example. We have also organised some initiatives that generate discussions on innovation in the public sector, such as Govin Play, and have helped initiate some international events in Recife.

What is the place of data in the approach, your priorities in this area? What is your relationship with the local ecosystems? (companies, etc.)

F.T.: Data are increasingly present in daily life and in the management of cities. Everyone is concerned as a citizen, employee, or user of public or private services. Nantes Métropole has chosen to define a strategic framework on this subject, which presents multiple ethical, legal and economic challenges. To this end, we have just launched a metropolitan data charter which sets out ethical principles to protect citizens and to provide a framework for the use of data in the territory. This choice is the result of a history and a method. Dialogue between civil society and the local authority has been developing for several years around digital technology and data-related issues. It has resulted in the active participation of residents in citizen dialogue processes where a diversity of views has been expressed on the use of data and, in particular, a need for education and transparency concerning the security and protection of personal data. Our objective is to create a virtuous effect among local players on the ethics of data and more than 50 public and private partners have already committed themselves to the values of the charter.

R.A.M.: In a report, we noted that the 22 "smartest cities" were setting open and transparent standards for data use, committed to gathering information and communications technology accessible to users inside and outside government. Governments have worked to actively engage residents in smart city initiatives and have been particularly effective. We consider this to be relevant and believe that the path to an open and transparent city that encourages innovation and citizen participation starts with data. Open data is the foundation for creating a smart, engaged and humane city. The priority for those who want to think about a smart city should always be to encourage innovation and provide access to information about the city, with the government being the most informed actor about the city and thus ensuring the availability of open government data from the city.

How do you use open data at the level of your city? What are the contributions in services and the relationship with citizens in the management of the community?

F.T.: Since 2012, Nantes has been one of the pioneering local authorities in France for the opening up of public data. Our data portal, which we have pooled with Loire-Atlantique and Pays de la Loire, plays an important role. Since October 2018, this "open data" has become a legal obligation. Our charter sets out the principles and objectives.

Open data has encouraged the creation of new user services designed by third parties, such as the "Mieux trier à Nantes" (providing help with waste sorting), "Y'A D Frites" (canteen menus) and "Rengo" (facilitating multimodality) applications. It is also a tool for the transparency of public action, for contributing to public debate (open data sets for the Great Citizens' Debates on the Loire or the Energy Transition) and for knowledge of the area (cartoparties on the census of bicycle shelters, remarkable trees, etc.).

R.A.M.: The Recife Open Data Portal, created in 2013, seeks to meet a standard of data quality, with relevant and up-to-date data, which we consider useful, accessible and reusable by citizens. We seek to make data always available with the highest possible granularity, allowing people to infer information about the data. We care about the non-proprietary open format and the availability of this information to users. In the last seven years, we have developed 7 hackathons organised by the Recife City Council. We have organised and contributed to a dozen other hackathons, in which Recife Open Data has always served as a model for editing and engagement, such as “Hack a City”. The Recife Open Data Portal was voted best open data portal in Brazil.

What do you see as your main challenges and points of attention to complete the transition to the smart city?

F.T.: Nantes has developed a vision and a daily practice of citizen dialogue and open governance that enriches and advances projects, from the smallest to the largest, from the most pragmatic to the most strategic. We must continue along this path by allowing even more inhabitants to participate in the making of the city.

R.A.M.: Well, cities have a central position to face the main challenges of modern society and its economy: employment, growth and investment, innovation, energy efficiency, low carbon development and CO reduction, etc. Thus, the great challenge consists in integrating the several domains that can qualify the smart city: energy management (electricity, gas, renewable energies, etc.); water and waste management; connectivity throughout the city; the "indoor" universe, i.e. the smart building (a highly intelligent building that consumes much less energy); intelligent and soft mobility for greener transport that is better adapted to needs (electric recharging stations for vehicles or buses, intelligent parking, passenger information, etc.): State, police, fire brigade (in order to call security). The idea of doing this motivates us!

 

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