Democratic Transparency in the Smart City

Smart Cities with democratic transparency, open source and, of course, tech

Published on: 18/01/2021
Last update: 08/05/2021

In creating a Smart City, it is necessary to create transparency in the public debate. Consul and Decidim are Open Source and transparent platforms for democratic interactive between citizans and decision-makers. This is possible through facilitate debates, citizens proposals, participatory budgets, voting, and collaborative legislation.


Technology is the driving factor in a Smart City, and as the EU-Commission defines it: 'It also means a more interactive and responsive city administration'.

Multiple digital solutions address this need for increased transparency, including the Open Source platforms Consul and Decidim. Both are platforms, which stimulates the democratic processes and transparency between public administration, politicians, and the citizens. They facilitate the direct involvement of citizens in the political decisions - such as participatory budgets, where citizens may vote for their preferred approach and suggest how public money are best spent.


Open Source citizen involvement

Open source is particularly good at this because the citizens are also allowed to contribute to the source code, take responsibility for it, and adjust for bugs.

On the website for the Consul project, the solution is defined as 'The most complete citizen participation tool for an open, transparent and democratic government.' Likewise Decidim is described to assist 'citizens, organizations and public institutions self-organize democratically at every scale.'

Both solutions facilitate debates, citizens proposals, participatory budgets, voting, and collaborative legislation. They are both used in several locations all over the world; in Europe, this includes Madrid and Turin (Consul) and Barcelona and Helsinki (Decidim).


Better lives with tech

Transparency is vital in a digital and Smart City because it is necessary to have the citizens' accept in order to implement smart solutions. As Jerry Hultin said in 2016 on Smart City Expo World Congress, Smart Cities are about: 'making the cities of the world places where the people want to live, where citizens want to participate and where technology gives everyone a better life'.

This kind of city requires an interest by the citizen in participating. Consul and Decidim facilitates this by creating a forum for representative public debate. Unlike public debate driven by algorithms on proprietary social medias, Consul and Decidim gives everyone a voice and a vote in the debate.


Access to the digital debate

Digital debate requires access to digital technologies, in particular wifi. Barcelona is one example of a European city which has taken the idea of free wifi in. This makes it possible for its 5.6 million citizens to access knowledge, communication, entertainment – and the democratic process through Decidim.



Final take-aways

  • Transparency is vital in a democracy. This counts for transparency in source code as well as democratic processes.
  • A Smart City is a city where better lives are accesible through technological means.
  • Consul and Decidim allows for the public to participate in democratic processes through digital means.