Maaike Osieck is the Communications Manager of the Amsterdam Smart City, an initiative that aims to develop the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area into a smart city. This is the first part of her guest blog where she explains why Amsterdam is THE place to host a Smart City & Living accelerator.
1. Amsterdam: The legacy of a smart city
It can easily be argued that Amsterdam was the first real smart city in the world. Not only since 2009, when our Smart City programme was launched, but beginning at the end of the 16th century. At that time, Amsterdam’s importance as a trading city began to grow. One of the key reasons that it became one of the richest cities of that era – with more than 50% of all sea-going vessels in the world departing and arriving from its harbour – was the availability of data relating to trade and cargo. In a space of just 400×400 metres, all of the information on the cargo, destination and ownership of all these vessels was gathered. This enabled merchants to trade cargo or compare products while they were still at sea.t was this rich flow of data that engendered the world’s first stock exchange and the opportunity for anybody to invest in trade, generating investments on a scale never seen before, while financial newspapers shared the information with everybody who wanted to access it. Essentially, it was open data avant la lettre!
2. A city of opportunities
Amsterdam is a bustling metropolitan city, yet on a global scale it is only the equivalent of a large village. The advantages of this “villiage feel”have actually become its biggest attractions and why so many people enjoy working and living here. Amsterdam is a city with a reputation for having an open mind and an international business sense. Last December it was ranked fourth in PwC’s annual City of Opportunities study. Researchers compared Amsterdam’s performance with that of 30 other cities, which are all global or regional centres of finance, commerce and culture. Amsterdam is a healthy, sustainable and attractive city with an innovative environment and a solid foundation for the digital future. Looking at the city’s readiness to capture the opportunities of new technologies, Amsterdam is a high performer across all variables. All of this offers the opportunity for businesses to develop innovative products and services, including software development and multimedia design. And this is also where start-ups are essential.
3. The Amsterdam model
You could actually say that there are two types of Smart Cities: the (government driven) systematic introduction of technology – let’s say the Dubai model – versus an approach based on enabling initiatives. We like to think of the latter as the Amsterdam model. How can we allow burgeoning ideas and initiatives developed by businesses or residents to flourish? It’s all about new solutions, created through collaboration between citizens, businesses and governmental agencies. Indeed, collaboration is key. Nowadays, ‘bottom-up’ is a popular term. With the government increasingly taking a back seat, this is arguably just what’s needed (and perhaps not entirely coincidental). An initiative really takes shape when bottom-up and top-down unite, irrespective of the side from which the impetus originates. In a 2011 article, The Economist highlighted the Amsterdam model: “Cities will become smarter but in different ways than many people expect. Whereas these top-down projects are struggling, some cities are getting smarter from bottom-up. Amsterdam is considered to be a leader of the pack.”
4. Amsterdam: the city as a living lab
A number of things need to be addressed in order to enable successful initiatives. These include the simplification of regulations, encouraging open data, developing an ecosystem where parties can unite, promoting startup accelerator programmes and ensuring that there is sufficient freedom and headroom for initiatives to be trialled. All these elements combine to create a Living Lab. Put simply: effective potential solutions and ideas put forward by residents, businesses or the municipality shouldn’t be greeted by closed doors. We’re working closely with all organisations in our network to ensure that this isn’t the case. A good Living Lab can help cities to strengthen their economy. Amsterdam is such a Living Lab, a fact that’s recognised on an international scale. The city has been approached by parties from all over the world looking to get down to business in Amsterdam. ASC ensures that it’s possible for concepts to be replicated in (or copied by) other neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, but also potentially in other cities. In turn, this means increased impact in the city, also for the participating initiatives and businesses.
About Amsterdam Smart City
Amsterdam Smart City is a unique partnership between businesses, authorities, research institutions and residents. By fostering collaboration, it is enabling innovative, mostly tech-driven solutions to the most pressing urban challenges. www.amsterdamsmartcity.com