The transformation of cities to digital ones is no longer a future project but has begun to be implemented in various cities and regions around the world, being one of the main advantages of these cities in the knowledge economy. A growing number of local government agencies have begun to implement applications in order to facilitate people’s lives by simplifying procedures, reducing time and cost of transactions. These applications are offered through wireless and broadband communication networks.
The last years has begun also in Greece an effort to create digital communities in the city level. Although there are a few products in the ICT market that cover some of the needs of a digital city, these are operating isolated and interoperability among them is minimal and often absent.
The creation of digital cities based on the de-materialization of a number of processes and activities changes radically the way in which members of these cities live and work. The transformation of a city to a digital one provides enormous benefits both to the city itself, and to the wider region, forming a key tool for development and competitiveness. The benefits derived from international experience, particularly in the U.S. and Great Britain are presented at many levels, including: effectiveness of public administration, democracy, meeting citizens needs, entrepreneurship, employment, promotion, etc.
The scope of the consortium consisting of the Research Unit for Urban and Regional Innovation URENIO and Emetris Inc., is to create an “Open Platform for Digital Cities” that provides a comprehensive solution involving the development of a digital city. This Open Platform is released as a stand alone product and also as a basis to create digital cities by local authorities, prefectures and regions in Greece and abroad (after customization).
The “Open Platform for Digital Cities” is a digital platform which consists of a core category and five independent subsystems (modules). The system covers five key components of a city: Democracy, Governance, Entrepreneurship, Information, and Touristic Promotion. Each of these components is supported by a different section / subsystem of the digital platform:
- Subsystem of Digital Democracy. Provides information on the activities of local government and other public authorities. Allows on-line viewing of the meetings of the City Council or committees of the municipality. Citizens’ participation in decision making is achieved through on-line discussion forums and polls.
- Subsystem of Digital Governance. Provides information on services and procedures of the municipality and enables citizens to get on-line, certificates issued by bodies of local government.
- Subsystem of Digital Entrepreneurship. Provides businesses with on-line tools, for creating a business plan, marketing plan and market research, in order to support entrepreneurship. It also supports e-commerce services, enabling companies to promote their products through the e-marketplace of the city.
- Subsystem of Information. Provides information on events in selected areas of interest, depending on the particularities of each city. The information is targeted on both residents and entrepreneurs operating in the city. It also allows citizens and businesses to create their own channels of information dissemination (blogs).
- Subsystem of Promotion and Culture. Enables virtual tour of the city by using digital maps and panoramic photos. At the same time provides a great deal of information about culture (e.g. monuments, attractions, events, etc.) that help the residents or visitors of the city to organize their leisure time in the city according to their interests.
For the use of the system there is no need to register users with a broadband communication network. Though users that have this option, in some cases have the availability of better quality content (e.g. higher-resolution video, better quality panoramics).