Blockchain, the technology developed for cryptocurrency finds its way into the field of governance. Opportunities to apply this decentralised, secure technology, are promising in e-voting, municipal finance, real estate transfers and land registries. This technology for land registries is piloted in Sweden, the Netherlands and India and discussed in Ghana and Kenya among others. Blockchain technology offers access to up to date encrypted data by many stakeholders, without being vulnerable to hacking. Instead of having a central server, blockchain disperses the encrypted data or the ledger of a process in a chain of blocks at different interconnected locations. In developing and emerging economies blockchain can offer a more transparent technology to avoid painstaking land registry processes and fake deeds that are common in places without a cadaster. According to the World Bank only 30% of the land is being registered. The market for this upcoming technology for land registry is big, but so is the challenge. Firstly there is the complexity of legal frameworks related to land and real estate that will not allow transfers to happen in digitial space with digital signatures only. Secondly the technology requires a blockchain protocol, smart tokens for land parcels, capacities of the parties involved – the agent, the banks, the seller and the buyer. Developing smart tokens for a city where no or limited has been been registered yet is already an immense task in itself. Blockchain technology offers many opportunities within the urban governance fields, but as always it is not a silver bullet, it requires a combination of new technology, data collection, policymaking, capacity building and stakeholder involvement to succeed.
Client: Minitstry of Infrastructure and the Environment Year: 2013 Project: For the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment SmartCityStudio produced a short film about the opportunities for Smart Cities in the Netherlands. The film has been screened at the High Level Meeting Smart Cities and the Dutch Innovation Congress in november 2013
Client: Rijkswaterstaat Year: 2013
Project: Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch department of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment responsible for the safety and maintenance of the Dutch national infrastructure works on the Open Data Initiative of the current cabinet. SmartCityStudio assists in the analyses of opportunities of the large body of data that exists within the organisation and advises on what steps to take to create innovative applications from datasets with third parties. To achieve this the raw data should first be ‘cleaned up’ and made accessible. SmartCityStudio assists in the conceptual thinking around a paradigm shift – from thinking in hardware to thinking in software – within Rijkswaterstaat. This in order to create opportunities for among others Smart Traffic Management, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), Mass Evacuation Software and Water Management.
As reported in the Economist this week, Ho Chi Minh City “must take drastic action to prevent flooding”. The low-lying city with over 8 million inhabitants could learn from the Dutch that developed Smart strategies to cope with peak levels in its rivers.
According to the Economist “yet nearly half of the city lies less than one metre above sea level…”and scientists say groundwater extraction in Ho Chi Minh City causes land subsidence may be having a huge unseen effect to the city of which nearly 70% is already vulnerable to extreme flooding.”…”Flood risks are rising in Ho Chi Minh City’s lower lying districts, in part because the property boom that accompanied Vietnam’s 2007 entry to the World Trade Organisation led many developers to build wherever they could” and because of “poor immigrants who build flimsy shacks in the city’s swampy outskirts”. Instead of only investing in a plan that comprises of over 170 km of dikes to protect urban areas Dutch strategies like the ‘Room for the River’ program might offer new useful insights in how to create flood-control solutions that are sustainable. The Dutch ‘Room for the River’ program is not fighting the water with investing in dikes that have to be heightened every decade. ‘Room for the River’ offers a dynamic systems that offers solutions for the increasing amounts of water in the Dutch rivers and the gradually subsiding land behind the dikes. The ‘Room for the River’ project literally creates more room for the river and with that guaranteeing the safety of over 4 million people living in risk areas along it. Work is carried out in more than 30 locations and interventions comprise of for example high water channels that branches of the river and offer separate routes for high water or temporary water storage areas.
Some of the interventions go hand in hand with the development of urban areas that take water management as a basis for urban planning. The ‘Room for the River’ program is more than progressive engineering. Above all it is a paradigm shift from a defensive ‘total control’ attitude towards a concept with a dynamic system that creates new spatial opportunities within the river landscape. The dynamics of the Dutch water system itself is accurately mapped by ‘Rijkswaterstaat’ the governmental department that is responsible for the design and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands. Reliable water data is of great importance for controlling the flood barriers, sluices and pumping stations and the assessment of water quality. Therefore ‘Rijkswaterstaat’s measures include the daily tides, wave height and water quality. They also calculate water levels and wave forecasts. Something for Ho Chi Minh City to have a look at. To have total control with ‘hardware’ like dikes only will on the long term be very money-consuming. The dynamic ‘Room for the River’ project together with accurate data on water levels (the ‘software’) will set the example for future flood-control solutions across the globe. For a short introduction on the ‘Room for the River’ project have a look at the corporate video of Rijkswaterstaat. Picture: Ho Chi Minh City by Brian K. Smith. Sources: SmartCityStudio, Rijkswaterstaat, the Economist.
Smart Cities can’t do without Open Data. The Open Data movement is still young but promising. Since the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009 the Open Government Initiative of the federal government opened up lots of data to the public for several reasons as clearly stated on the White House website: “In addition to catalyzing entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and other public benefits, Open Data also helps ensure a transparent, accountable, and open government”. Cities as Chicago and New York City are best practices in how data could be made accessible for the public. Data like traffic counts, construction permits, public investment, licensing, schools, crime and more are downloadable in a variety of extensions. To catalyze the development of useful applications competitions like BIGAPPS NYC2013 challenges innovative entrepreneurs to add value to the data. BigApps is being organized by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the The NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT). BigApps NYC’s website about the challenge: “New York City believes that staying ahead of the innovation curve is essential to the City’s future, and that connecting with the software development community will foster new technology that improves the quality of life of New York’s residents and visitors.” Source: SmartCityStudio Picture: Chicago, 96th floor of the Hancock Center by Eric Ward