The International Smart Cities Network at the World Urban Forum 11 in Katowice

The World Urban Forum (WUF) is the most important global conference on sustainable urbanisation. Launched by the United Nations in 2001, it highlights one of the most pressing global challenges of our time: rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and politics. From 26-30 June, this year’s WUF11 was hosted under the theme “Transforming our Cities for a Better Urban Future” by UN Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat), Poland’s Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy and the Municipal Office of Katowice, Poland.

With the hybrid networking event “About the ingredients in the secret sauce of smart cities: Learning from urban innovation and co-creation practices”, the International Smart Cities Network (ISCN) of the BMWSB explored the question of how co-creation and innovation in smart cities pave the way for a common good-oriented, resilient and socially just urban development.

The approximately 250 participants followed with interest the welcoming remarks by Renate Mitterhuber, Head of the Division Smart Cities at the BMWSB, as well as the presentation of the implementation of an open source solution for local markets in the ISCN partner city Guadalajara, Mexico. The digital solution “Mi Mercado AMG” was further developed last year as a result of the international, digital ideas competition #SolutionsForCities within a co-creative innovation process. It supports municipalities in designing a sustainable transition to an online business model for local markets. The findings from the implementation can be found in the free Transfer Package “Digital Solution for Local Markets”, which was already presented during the ISCN Online Advisory Programme in June 2022. The transfer package includes the open source code, practical manuals for municipal staff (administrators), market vendors and bicycle suppliers to enable other municipalities around the world to replicate, scale and adapt the digital solution to their local context.

In addition, the BMWSB co-hosted the event of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) “Championing #Digital4LivableCities: Digital Solutions for the Common Good” on citizen-centred approaches in smart cities. The panelists discussed on ethical and socially responsible data use, co-creation as well as open, interoperable standards and municipal data platforms. Experience on these topics was provided by the German Smart Cities model projects funded by BMWSB and other projects of BMZ, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the United Nations Innovation Technology Accelerator for Cities (UNITAC) from the respective partner countries. Renate Mitterhuber pointed out the importance of international exchange in the field of smart cities, as the major global challenges can only be solved by working together. Continuous learning from and with each other is therefore key.

From the broad WUF11 dialogue it became clear that the digital transformation in cities requires:

  • putting people, rather than technology first,
  • closing digital divides – including divides affecting people with disabilities,
  • establishing technology standards and ethical decision-making,
  • aligning technology with cultural identities.

These findings are also reflected in the UN Habitat publication series “People-Centered Smart Cities Playbooks”, which aims to support cities, regions and other organisations with practical guides to take a people-centred approach to smart city development. After five days of rich dialogue, the conference ended with an invitation to WUF12, which will take place in Cairo, Egypt in 2024.