Yesterday afternoon I hit the, initially at least, confusingly titled digital cities session. A digital city apparently "delivers high quality and high value services to its citizens and business community utilising ICT" (may not be an exact quote). This idea fascinates me as a digital consumer (more than most but probably less than some of the grid community). What can our cities/localities offer through ICT and where is leading the way?
The answer was a little surprising to me. Not London (I wish), New York or even Paris. No it is Trikale, in Greece, a small rural town with a population of just over 50,000 people. The town has free WiFi(95% geographical coverage), 35Km of fibre optic cabling, tele-medecine, online voting even dialogue between public servants and their constituents. They are now the lead partner in a new project Digital Cities which also includes Manchester and the subject of another talk at the session Almere.
Almere is a "new" Dutch city (finished in 1976) with a slightly larger population than Trikala, ~180,000. Their system is just as impressive as Trikala with all businesses and public institutions connected to fibre and by July 2010 100% of the houses (72,000) will also be connected. They are seen internationally as best practise for broadband provision having created 1,000 jobs in the ICT sector in the city and 1,000 more in local SMEs. The best bit is the cost, €15.5M. Which sounds like a lot till you learn that they gained €450M of extra investment in the city in consequence of their infrastructure.
London gets public use bikes next year hopefully we can get on with something slightly more high tech for the next public infrastructure upgrade.