Open Cities Graphic final

Can cities become ‘open’ rather than ‘smart’?

At the ODI, our research found dissatisfaction with, and a move away from, the language of ‘smart’ in relation to strategies cities were revisiting or devising from scratch.

We found that it was widely felt that the language of ‘smart cities’ was little more than a marketing strategy and that the move towards speaking about ‘open’, ‘digitised’, ‘citizen-centric’ and so on was proving to be more desirable, meaningful and positive.

We identified a number of European cities that have recently released strategies which emphasised the importance of open data, open culture and citizen engagement. To find out more, we interviewed representatives from organisations working within four European cities – Amsterdam, Gdańsk, Hamburg and Helsinki – to understand their approach to ‘open’, what they have done so far and what they intend to do in the future.

This report consolidates what we learned from these interviews and offers insight into whether these four cities are moving towards a more open future. In turn, we considered how cities are:

  • changing how they define themselves
  • embracing openness
  • developing their (open) data infrastructure
  • fostering innovation
  • encouraging the use of data within departments
  • accessing data held by the private sector
  • considering the ethical implications of their use of data and technology.

The movement of cities towards a more open future – where open data, open innovation and civic engagement leads to the fairer and more effective use of technology – is encouraging and we hope the progress continues. If we can champion these cities, we hope we can stimulate others to follow.

2020-03-P19_Becoming more open_ The view from four European cities (PDF)