Thursday, March 05, 2009

This week was dominated for me by the Creating Smarter Cities conference here in Edinburgh. It was particularly significant as Edinburgh was the original 'Smart City' and I personally played a major role in its creation and development. The original vision was to have efficient accessible services suited to citizens needs but also (and this is the smart bit)joining up and working in partnership with others in the city to offer solutions to citizens problems. Sounds quite straightforward, but it certainly hasn't been. Gordon Mackenzie of Microsoft pointed out in their new headquarters in Waverleygate on Monday evening that the partnership model developed by Edinburgh City Council and BT was the one used by them worldwide. A pat on the back for the E-Government Division headed up by Andrew Unsworth and of course me since I was the Executive Member responsible for it. Brendan Dick of BT Scotland followed with an excellent contribution charting the journey we had taken in Edinburgh and drawing attention to the small but incredibly successful digital inclusion pilot 'Everybody Online' in my own area of Gorgie Dalry. Another highlight for me however was meeting my old friend Eric Goubin from Belgium. We met during the Demos project and like most of the other members we developed into a group of close friends. Demos was unusual in that participants felt they were on a journey of discovery, grappling with the theory and practice of citizen participation. We became so in tune with each other that it had a strange effect of almost distancing everyone else with whom you did not have that same shared understanding. The worth of the project was so acknowledged by us all that we have organised annual transnational meetings ever since even though the project officially ended years ago.