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The City as Platform

The City as PlatformThe report “The City as Platform: How Digital Networks Are Changing Urban Life and Governance’, published by the Aspen Institute considers the impact of networks and networking on cities from technological, economic, social, cultural and policy viewpoints. The report is a result of Institute’s 2015 Roundtable on Information Technology.

Charles M. Firestone, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute:

Just as businesses are finding that the rapidly changing digital environment pushes them to become or use platforms in their various ecosystems, the Roundtable found that the best way for cities to think of themselves going forward in this atmosphere is as a platform. That is, cities can leverage digital and network technologies, tapping the expertise of its many citizens and stakeholders, to work for solutions to urban problems, co-create new activities, and engage citizens more directly in the city’ s work and play. They can use open data, crowdsourcing and urban prototyping to enhance both government services and enjoyment of local life in the city.

The movement to networks, digital technologies and the gig economy has created problems, though, as well as solutions. Most significant of those is the rising inequality among citizens, and the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on jobs now and into the future. The Roundtable and the report tackles some of these issues, at least highlighting some approaches that governments might take to promote safety nets for those “left behind.’

Finally, the report sets out a way of thinking about how governments should react by adopting policies in four asset areas: infrastructure, people, technology and data. While specific policy proposals are not offered, there are a number of topic areas where thoughtful local policy-makers might start.