Barcelona has long been a leader in the smart city movement utilizing innovative technologies to improve the daily life of its citizens. Joaquim Alvarez a leader in smart cities and who worked for the Barcelona City Council for four years, has been leading workshops around the country in conjunction with Delos Delta. 1.6 million people reside within the Council area and 4.8 million in the surrounding region.
Joaquim outlined that the approach to the smart city concept in Barcelona has evolved over time. Its early stages were characterized by top-down, technologically driven decision-making with minimal involvement or understanding from its citizens. The second stage of evolution represented a more bottom-up approach, with the demands of citizens and politicians driving the technology to evolve solutions.
The current stage is an attempt to link citizen participation with both governments aims and new technologies. The Council believes that the fairest way for technology to advance is for local communities to be included in its development, and rewarded by clear evidence of how technology can improve their quality of life. In summary, citizens are the most important part of the city and not technology.
Joaquim also outlined the way the Council engages with its citizens which has resulted in about 70% of Council’s new policies arising from the citizen participation process. “decidim.barcelona” is the digital platform for participation of the citizens within Barcelona City Council to help build a more democratic city through meetings, discussions and proposals. It is an open source platform where any citizen can see how it is built, used and improved.
Another interesting initiative of the Council is the trial implementation of the “Superblock” which works in the established grid pattern of Barcelona by restricting car traffic within each Superblock, allowing neighbourhoods to become less polluted and noisy, and the streets freed up for pedestrians. So far the trials on nine Superblocks which has used a gradual trial and error method have been successful.