Ghent, City of People (Ghent - Belgium)
Ghent, City of People (Ghent - Belgium)
Ghent is a Belgian metropolitan city with a surface of 15,643 ha, 60,000 inhabitants in its metropolitan area and 258,119 inhabitants in Ghent itself. People from 161 different nationalities are spread over 25 neighbourhoods sharing their diverse cultural experiences and backgrounds. It is the largest student city in the region of Flanders, with about 75,000 students. Current unemployment rate is at about 9.2%.
The municipality of Ghent believes that there is no single definition of smart city, that is why they focus their strategy on the human component in the city of the future: smart citizens. Thus, Ghent based its entire smart city planning on the concept of “Ghent, (Smart) City of People”, an inclusive, innovative, and sustainable approach that puts citizens in the centre.
Technology is an enabler in the process of building a smart city, and open data is a strategic asset that is at its foundation. The quadruple helix (government, academia, industry, and citizens) co-creation strategy mobilises the full potential of the city and drives innovation-based economic growth.
In an innovative initiative, Ghent managed to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda with the city’s innovation programme and promote them country-wide. Within Belgium, Ghent is the only municipality that is an official SDG Voice under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen of Belgium, and therefore the only government organisation that is an ambassador for the SDGs (among 7 other organisations in the country). Therefore, the city has launched a challenge to other cities to promote cooperation and working together towards the realisation of the SDGs. So far, they have challenged 5 different cities: Sint-Niklaas, Genk, Luik, Oostende, and Kortrijk. Each challenge addresses one SDG, and simultaneously creates awareness for the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations (more information on Ghent’s SDGs challenges available on the website: https://ookmijn.stad.gent/sdguitdagingen).
The city of Ghent also developed a Living Lab to test and co-create solutions that address the main societal challenges in four domains: sustainable mobility and transport, innovation in urban renewal, health and care, and climate neutrality.
Interview with a local government official (Municipality of Ghent) at the Smart City Expo World Congress Barcelona 2017.
Improved e-Governance and citizen services;
Improved Energy management;
Improved Intelligent Transport Systems;
Improved Health for Citizens;
Improved Education and Training.
Description of the specific objectives of the municipality of Ghent:
- Connect all its forces to develop the city into a lasting and liveable whole;
- Work towards a climate-neutral city, building an eco-friendly and diversified economy;
- Develop a community of responsible citizens who actively participate in the city’s and the citizens’ development.
The Living Lab also has several objectives (priorities 2013-2019):
- Offer open opportunities;
- Become climate neutral and energy independent;
- Boost sustainable transport;
- Create a pleasant and affordable living experience;
- Develop a sustainable economy and industry;
- Reinforce the quality of being a learning and creative city;
- Foster the desire for experience and solidarity;
- Promote a safe, healthy, and viable city;
- Provide a network of effective and efficient public services.
City of Ghent; Digipolis; IBBT; Ghent University; Hogeschool Gent University College; Arteveldehogeschool University College; KaHo Sint-Lieven University College; Local (developer) networks and community organisations.
- Technology is not neutral: its form, accessibility, and the required skills to use it properly will determine the impact it has on citizens;
- Management, policy, and participation issues;
- Addressing the offline networks to make the data available to everyone;
- Making data useful and extracting information out of it (potential for open data, linked data and big data);
- Cybersecurity and data protection;
- Building the capacity of users to be active co-creators and co-producers;
- Maintaining collaboration between different communities: research, business, public sector, citizens.
The city of Ghent uses IoT to enable people to connect, co-create and learn: Game engines for decision making - Zwerm (www.zwermgent.be); Bicycle counters; Open mobility data; LoRa; Datahub (https://datahub.gent.be/).
Ghent Living Lab has several ongoing projects: park & ride of the future, smart traffic circulation, traffic management as a service, smart distribution, regenerating commercial centres, inclusive and liveable wards, new ways of living, IoT, Apps for Ghent (hackaton event), e-services, e-participation, living and care, socialisation of care, health promotion, e-health, circular economy, sharing economy, sustainable energy, local food systems, digital maps update (open street map, turn-by-turn, localyse), commons city of the future, Mobility Urban Values (EU-project), project OASIS - Open Applications for Semantically Interoperable Services (Linked Open Data initiative between Ghent and Madrid), My Digital Idea for Ghent, SoleWay (indoor GPS navigation system).
The city also has a participation platform (https://stad.gent/over-gent-en-het-stadsbestuur/stadsbestuur/speel-een-rol-het-beleid/ik-wil-meedoen/participatieplatform) for citizens to enter the discussion on several topics regarding the future of Ghent and a crowdfunding platform (https://crowdfunding.gent/nl/).
Advantages of the Traffic as a Management System: citizens who subscribe receive real-time and personalised access to information, and useful traffic advice about their neighbourhoods or usual journeys (for instance, information related to accidents, traffic jams, delays, availability of vehicles in car sharing networks, train scheduling, bicycle parking, available parking spaces, weather updates, and so on). This is a more efficient, safe, and sustainable mobility system.
Benefits and results of the Zwerm social initiative: 80% of the players who participated in the game said they got to know their neighbourhood better and 75% said it promoted social cohesion. The researchers of the Zwerm project also received the Best of CHI Honourable Mention Award for their paper at the SIGCHI 2014 conference in Toronto.
Impact of the SDGs Challenges: massive citizen participation in each challenge, fostering country-wide awareness of the importance of the SDGs (more information and pictures: https://ookmijn.stad.gent/sdguitdagingen/nieuws-en-artikels).
Impact of the crowdfunding platform so far: 2 online projects, 54 implemented projects, 2,342 people involved, 119,852 € raised.
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