Digital Transformation Technology and Innovation

Digital and the city

Written by Elodie IMBERT

Against common belief, local authorities are really engaged into the digital era : e-administration, paperless invoicing, web, IoT and even social media. For all sort of purposes, Digital is going to bring citizens and local authorities closer in terms of law, territorial marketing, facilitate the daily life.

  • New tools, new relations?

Growing abstention, general disinterest for politics and public administration in general, arrival of the « digital native » generation… All these things lead local authorities to change their communication mode and above all to meet their clients’ expectations expectations : citizens!

According to the Ideose barometer (January 2016), 55% of French cities have a Facebook page and 50% have a Twitter one. Cities need to build communities around their projects and around their « brand ». They have to find the good editorial line and also provide good content to nurture communities.

For example, the city of Besançon (region Bourgogne-Franche Comté, around 117 000 inhabitants) decided to adapt its content: they use Facebook for the promotion of the territory and the development of the sense of belonging; Twitter as a real dialogue tool with the notion of a customer service.

  • Can Digital enhance democracy?

Certain authorities, like Paris for instance (with « Paris Dans ma rue »), have chosen to develop their own app in order to be close to their citizens. The app allows citizens to improve the cleanliness of the city by taking a picture of bulky items on the sidewalk and thanks to the geolocalization, the app alerts immediately the municipality’s services.

Others decided to go further. Have you ever heard about the city of Jun? Jun is a small town (3800 inhabitants) in Andalusia and was named #TwitterVillage by Dick Costolo (the CEO of Twitter) himself. He names it that way for a very good reason, Jun’s mayor wants to improve the civic life by using Twitter as its principal medium for citizen-government communication.  Citizens who have questions or requests can tweet it to the city hall staff (for example: a broken streetlight, need of pruning trees, … ) Even the municipal councils are streamed  live on Twitter and Periscope. Everyone could participate by tweeting questions which appear on a screen in the council chamber.

This choice allows the town to save time and money by being more efficient and also valuing interventions of the city hall staff.

Is it not democracy to make the exercise of authority more transparent and associate inhabitants?

  • A challenge for the « Civic Tech »

Local authorities have to keep in mind two main objectives : the promotion of dialogue, engagement and debate and the anchorage of new citizen practices. We all know what the collaborative economy is about so why not use this concept in politics?

A lot of start-ups are especially interested in the subject, this is what we call more globally the « Civic Tech ». They assist local authorities or governments in getting higher participation rate and assist them in delivering citizen services and strengthening ties with the public.

« It’s about every-day subjects that we can reengage citizens. » this is what encourages Julie de Pomodan (former employee of Google) to create Fluicity. This French start-up provides a positive and concrete solution to an acute political and societal demand by offering a new governance standard for cities: a civic technology to recreate dialogue between the mayors and citizens. It is a global solution for communication both upward and downward between the elected officials and their constituents.

« We are 21st century citizens doing our best to interact with 19th century designed institutions that are based on an information technology of the 15th century. What is democracy for the internet era? » here is the starting point of the non profit organization DemocratyOS, launched in 2012 in Argentina.

This tool was created with an easy user experience for citizens to get informed, debate and vote on every single bill presented in Congress. Today, it has evolved to become one of the most used platform for collaborative decision-making, translated into 15 languages. In France, the city of Nanterre is using it and a lot of others are interested in.

All this is the beginning of a new era. Even the notion of « smart city » is evolving. For the first time since its creation, the Smart Cities Expo World Congress, which just took place in Barcelona in November 2016, has adopted the theme « Cities for citizens, citizens who change their cities ».

Digital can contribute to restore their place to citizens and put themselves at the center of the city preoccupations.

About the author



Professional in HR development, i expand my skills to digital to face the future challenges of the HR field.