Is There Place For Citizenship in Digital Cities Realm?


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Paper presented at "Digital Cities Summit", Lisbon, 24-25th of Sept. 2007.

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Is There Place For Citizenship in Digital Cities Realm?

  1. 1. IS THERE PLACE FOR CITIZENSHIP IN DIGITAL CITIES REALM? A SOCIOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT BÁRBARA BARBOSA NEVES Centre for Public Administration & Policies Institute of Social and Political Sciences of Lisbon Technical University Foundation for Science and Technology Portugal.
  2. 2. The Research: Multiple Case Study <ul><li>The aim is to verify if digital cities can reinforce/complement citizenship </li></ul><ul><li>Longitudinal empirical study of two Portuguese digital cities (grounded civic types) </li></ul><ul><li>Selection of two different approaches, Gaia Global, a digital city and Aveiro Digital, a digital region </li></ul><ul><li>Methodological Triangulation </li></ul>
  3. 3. Citizenship Versus Digital Citizenship <ul><li>In this digital framework, the concept of digital citizenship (virtual citizenship or e-citizenship) emerges. </li></ul><ul><li>If some authors consider that new paradigms are born with the digital, others think that these notions remain unaltered, only being carried to a different level. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Citizenship Versus Digital Citizenship <ul><li>The “netizen” </li></ul><ul><li>The “citizen of the technological digital globalized society” </li></ul><ul><li>Glocal citizenship </li></ul>
  5. 5. Gaia Global and Aveiro Digital
  6. 6. Gaia Global – Vila Nova de Gaia City
  7. 7. Gaia Global <ul><li>Gaia Global ( ) is the digital city project of Vila Nova de Gaia. </li></ul><ul><li>Option for Global instead of Digital. </li></ul><ul><li>This digital city conjugates a set of inter-related sites, namely concerning services, the town hall site and other municipal sites, like water supply company site, etc. Concerning information and interaction, they have the Gaia citizen portal ( , object of our research), the youth site and the interactive Gaia map. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Gaia Global
  9. 9. Aveiro Digital – Aveiro Region
  10. 10. Aveiro Digital <ul><li>In the first phase (1998-2000) the Project represented only the Aveiro city. However, in the current phase (2003-2006), Aveiro Digital is a digital region. </li></ul><ul><li>The Aveiro Digital Programme 2003-2006 ( ) is established as a social, economic and cultural development engine, that addresses the qualification of people and the modernization of services in the “Associação de Municípios da Ria” (Association of Municipal Districts of the River) region. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Aveiro Digital Portal
  12. 12. Ishida Matrix Applied to the Multiple Case Study Aveiro Digital Association and Association of Municipal Districts of the River (Local governments, Aveiro university and local enterprises); Management by CEAD (Execution Comission of Aveiro Digital) Attendance Level: Gaia Town Hall; Management and Coordination Level: “Energaia”, Gaia Energy Agency; Consultation Committee. ORGANIZATION Digital Infrastructure that allows e-mail accounts creation and has a verification and attendance system for Aveiro Digital (SAVAD) beneficiaries (access restricted to the entities that have projects with Aveiro Digital, namely, council departments, university, companies and local associations). Digital Infrastructure based on a first layer with three important pillars: Connection with Citizen Management, Geographic Information Systems and Contents Management; Technologies Convergence. TECHNOLOGY Site that describes all the projects and beneficiaries. Interaction platform among those beneficiaries. Model based on generic citizens’ needs, dividing contents in life events, (for instance in the “Viver” – Live Menu, information is divided by different life phases); Representation of the digital city according to its physical model (the site was formulated according to squares connected to intervention areas). ARCHITECTURE To qualify people and organizations in the AMRia Region. Establishment of a public communication infra-structure and an information and mediation structure between different role-players; Regional dynamics and region modernization. GOAL AVEIRO DIGITAL GAIA GLOBAL
  13. 13. Aurigi Elements Applied to the Multiple Case Study <ul><li>Complementing this matrix with the Aurigi four concepts: </li></ul><ul><li>ownership corresponds to the Ishida “organization”; </li></ul><ul><li>informativeness and serviceability varies between Gaia Global and Aveiro Digital , although globally Gaia Global reaches a higher level of available information and services online; </li></ul><ul><li>social access and participation is more visible in Aveiro Digital ; </li></ul>
  14. 14. Aurigi Elements Applied to the Multiple Case Study <ul><li>the relation with the host city is observed in both projects, mostly in contents and actions, although in digital terms (of digital representation) it is only noticeable in Gaia Global . </li></ul><ul><li>Bringing up the three types of digital cities (underlined by Aurigi), namely the informative, participative and rooted, the studied digital city and digital region can be linked to the three types, even though they achieve different levels. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Digital Cities and Citizenship <ul><li>Within the new urbanity, the citizen (or digital citizen) has access to a platform that allows him to interact with his community, to access a significant number of public services and to intervene in decision centres. </li></ul><ul><li>Digital cities have as a main goal the offer of basic citizenship elements, such as process transparency, information and services availability, communication platform and simplicity in the interaction. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Digital Cities and Citizenship <ul><li>Basing our research in the theoretical support of SCOT, we applied semi-structured interviews and e-interviews (2005-2006) to national and international experts (ten interviewees) and through their opinions and visions, we started to construct our perception of digital cities and their connection to citizenship. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Digital Cities and Citizenship: Interviews Results “ Can digital cities additionally provide for some social and political needs (like interaction, identity, citizenship exercise) of their citizens?” N=10 N=10
  18. 18. Digital Cities and Citizenship: Interviews Results “ Are they promoting debate, public intervention and participation?” N=10
  19. 19. Digital Cities and Citizenship: Interviews Results “ Are they spaces of citizenry?” N=10
  20. 20. E-Survey: Some Considerations <ul><li>To approach the “citizens” of these digital cities and in order to understand who they were, what type of using they do and what social, cultural and political impact come from these virtual projects in their opinions, we applied an e-survey. </li></ul><ul><li>However, we could only perform that at Gaia Global portal ( ). </li></ul><ul><li>The Aveiro Digital is chiefly an internal platform for the beneficiaries. Therefore, we not only were not authorized to access these beneficiaries, as the definition of the “common user”, the “cybercitizen” of the digital city were not fully framed in this project. </li></ul>
  21. 21. E-Survey Applied to Gaia Global Users ( <ul><li>The e-survey applied to the Gaia citizens’ portal ( ) was online from 15th of September to 15th of October 2005, when the site had 628 registered users. </li></ul><ul><li>It was answered by 40 users, 37 registered in the site (80% male, 20% female); between 25 and 34 years old (37,5%), married or united in fact (62, 5%) and with higher education levels (65%). </li></ul>
  22. 22. E-Survey Applied to Gaia Global Users ( <ul><li>It is crucial to address a few methodological considerations about these questionnaires: </li></ul><ul><li>First, we know the number of registered users, but we do not know the number of users. </li></ul><ul><li>Second, we do not have any socio-demographic information about the registered users, because to register it is only asked to introduce name, physical and virtual address. </li></ul>
  23. 23. E-Survey Applied to Gaia Global Users <ul><li>Third, it is important to state the limitations of an e-survey. </li></ul><ul><li>Fourth, the site was launched in 2004, i.e., one year prior to the survey, what demonstrates its initiate level. </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, it is pertinent to underline that even being a convenience sample, not representative of the universe (that we do not even know) the results might be useful to observe what could be the perceptions of the portal users. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Users Results “ Does GG allow you to intervene actively in your city?” Legend : yes no dn/da 53% 30% 17%
  25. 25. Users Results “ Does GG allow you to exercise your citizenship?” Legend : yes no dn/da 63% 20% 17%
  26. 26. Users Results “ Does GG allow you to have a better quality of life?” Legend : yes no dn/da 70% 17.5% 12.5%
  27. 27. Conclusion <ul><li>According to the study outcomes, digital cities are reinforcing citizenship, although still at a low degree, mainly concerning bi-directional communication, participation, public intervention and public debate. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Conclusion <ul><li>The digital cities users are associated to the profile of “early adopters”, young, male and with high education levels. </li></ul><ul><li>Nonetheless, digital cities can be mechanisms of urban inclusion and participation, as well as, info-inclusion, as they also establish initiatives and strategies for bringing the digital divide. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Closing Remarks <ul><li>It is fundamental that digital cities focus on citizens instead of blindly on technology. </li></ul><ul><li>Democracy and public intervention is not made by ICTs, they are only tools. </li></ul><ul><li>Information is not knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Access is not participation. </li></ul>
  30. 30. Closing Remarks <ul><li>Digital cities are facing numerous challenges, which might even threaten their survival: </li></ul><ul><li>Info-exclusion; </li></ul><ul><li>the nascent state of the projects, </li></ul><ul><li>the financial and operational projects sustainability; </li></ul><ul><li>the need of incessant mutual planning of the physical and the digital city; </li></ul><ul><li>the crucial requirement for continuing existence. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Closing Remarks <ul><li>Only as a long-term process, will digital cities manage to have a significant impact and relevant effect on community and territory. </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, the social impact assessment of these digital platforms is a prominent problem and challenge. </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>THANK YOU! </li></ul><ul><li>Bárbara Barbosa Neves </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>Institute of Social and Political Sciences of Lisbon Technical University, Centre for Public Administration & Policies, Portugal.