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The city is a platform

This week, our columnist is Anna-Kaisa Ikonen, the mayor of Tampere, who talks about what a smart city consists of.

We are moving very quickly into the digital economy era. It will change how companies conduct business and the roles consumers play. On the platforms of the sharing economy, everyone can be a buyer or seller. The services offered by municipalities and cities will also be revolutionised. What will the Sharing City of the future be like?

I can already notice the growth of the sharing economy in my own consumer behaviour. I no longer buy records or CDs or rent videos or DVDs; I listen to music and watch films using a cloud service. I do not go to a travel agency to book a trip abroad; I look for flights and hotels online.

I am now going to take a peek into the future to see how the sharing economy will change my home city of Tampere.

The nature of libraries will change when magazines and books are read online. Libraries will become platforms producing information together with the city residents. They will offer workspaces for “city nomads”, allowing anyone with a library card to go in and work. And, yes, you will still be able to borrow things from them – not only books but also tools and neighbourly help, for example.

The nature of health centres will change when patients visit doctors online. There will be no more queues, and doctors can concentrate on the more challenging treatments. People will make use of self-care and peer care at wellness centres, where private, public and third-sector services will be offered side by side. There will be more hands helping the elderly at home thanks to neighbourly help.

Teaching work and school facilities will change as virtual learning environments become more common. Learning is about doing things together and sharing information, and pupils and students can even participate in classes from the other side of the globe.

New solutions are being sought for public transport in the countryside by introducing ride-sharing services. Shared vehicles will become more common; even today, more than half of the households living in the centre of Tampere do not own a car. Increasingly dense cities are a natural platform for the sharing economy.

Urban spaces, parks, sports fields, schools, squares and vacant lots will be filled with the residents’ own activities, restaurant days, flea markets, picnics, city games and pop-up events.

The development of platforms for shared economy services will increase the attractiveness of cities. This will generate a new kind of communality as well as a new culture of entrepreneurship and active citizenship. It will also enhance the use of the cities’ resources and enable the improvement of services without increasing the costs.

The greatest wisdom does not reside in city hall but rather in the co-operation between city residents, companies and communities. A smart city is a physical and digital platform for doing things together.

Published on 08.12.2016