Different approaches give alternative definitions for the ‘Digital City’. Digital environments containing official and unofficial information collected from a small community and made available through a unique portal are called “Information Cities”. Moreover, a network of organisations, social teams and enterprises operating in a city area is defined as a Digital City.
The project has extended those previous approaches by defining the Digital City as “the global information environment, focusing on the needs of a medium-sized city”. The environment contains Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions, but is not designed to offer digital public services or to create digital communities. The primary targets of the Digital City are: a) to offer digital means for supporting social needs in all daily transactions. b) to acclimate the local community to the notion of the Information Society, and c) to collect official and unofficial information from the local community in order to support sustainable growth of small societies.
The concept of the Digital City
According to the extended definition, the Digital City offers ICT means and methods to cover social needs in the city area. Because cities can have different needs related to the above axes of precedence, each Digital City will be unique. However, all digital cities have the same development principles and they are all based on a multi-tier architecture consisting of layers namely Infrastructure layer, Service layer and Users and Back-office layer (Figure 1).
a) Infrastructure layer: This layer consists of hardware and software infrastructures necessary for the Digital City’s operation. (e.g. fiber optic Metropolitan Area or wireless broadband networks, network equipment, intelligent transport system, points of access (such as infokiosks), operating software systems etc.).
b) Service layer: They represent the development and delivery of products and services of an organised unit to the public. Digital Cities realise life events and situations according to special cases occurring in the city area. Moreover, digital services are developed to treat social cases, offer public information and to present the ‘Human Face’ of Administration in the local community. The Service layer is the most critical issue of the Digital City since it provides a framework for communication between citizens and organisations of the Public and the Private Sector, and it is related to the diffusion of digital activities to the community.
c) Users layer: This layer comprises of all different unique users or teams of users – such as citizens, civil servants, public organisations, schools, local enterprises – who transact with the Service layer and applications they need to transact with the Digital City.
d) Back-office layer: This layer refers to all organised authorities and enterprises that produce and deliver information to the end – users or execute public services and digital transactions in general.
The development of the Digital City can follow the top-down procedure, based on the design and implementation methodology employed by Municipal Agencies since local communities are ‘close’ to the Municipalities and Municipalities are aware of all local needs. On the other hand, a local community is a dynamic evolving environment, whose needs – which are not ICT simulated – are not static and therefore cannot be mapped out just once. Digital City considers that the ICT means and methods allocate current needs and simulate related transactions. (Figure 2)
Figure 2: The Digital City creates a new virtual environment that consists of more than one virtual teams, sharing knowledge throuth Digital City’s ares
The e-Trikala project (www.trikalacity.gr) consists of some initial phases and has pre-defined some future phases for the proper operation of the digital environment. The implementation methodology of e-Trikala, the first Digital City in Greece describes the strategic planning for digital local governance, which is extended beyond the citizen digital dispatch and focuses on all possible profit- and non-profit-oriented services. The municipality developed a working group consisting of special executives (project managers and ICT seniors coming from the academic and private sectors) to design and to implement the initial phases of the project. Later, representatives of social teams (such as schools and teams of people who need special care) were incorporated into the work team and brainstorming procedures were implemented delivering special aspects both with top-down and bottom-up flow. The whole procedure was a participatory design process, which is dynamic and occurs often during the implementation of the project.
The initial phase consists of the sub-projects that deliver necessary infrastructure and services:
1. Infrastructure projects: It refers to the installation of both a fiber optic Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) and a Wi-Fi broadband network in the area of Trikala, the installation of the primary domains to offer specific digital services and the allocation of basic access points for the citizens (‘intelligent stations’ of the intelligent transport network, info-kiosks for accessing public information and for e-Ticketing, IVR call centre, KEP office as a front-desk for the Digital City,
tele-work centres and access point in the Municipal Library).
2. Digital service projects: This refer to the design and deployment of e-Government services through a portal application. Moreover, a collaboration environment for civil servants who execute all possible non-automated public services was designed. Furthermore, primary non-profit digital services, such as tele-care and distant learning services, were designed.
3, Projects aiming at the constitution of the ‘critical mass’ of users: The successful dissemination of the Digital City will be based on social acceptance, which will be undertaken by a critical mass of users aware of all available public services and procedures. Relevant projects were designed: training courses for all organised teams (civil servants, students, members of people who need special assistance, employed and unemployed citizens etc.), briefing projects on the benefits of broadband networks and projects which aim at the development of teams of volunteers (unemployed and students).
The development methodology of e-Trikala consists of the following considerations:
The Digital City must be an open environment able to be accessed by all citizens, even those who are not ICT skilled or who do not have ICT equipment to access the Digital City. The methodology provided for the installation of access points in public buildings (such as the Municipal Library) and the development of training courses oriented to both primary ICT skills and to Digital City services as means to treat the digital divide. Moreover, the procedure that has been followed during the design of digital services aims at uploading through multiple channels, accessed by all possible devices (digital TV, 3G cell phones etc). Additionally, elderly citizen can access digital services through the special KEP office of the Digital City.
Trikala announced as the first Digital City initiative in Greece by the Greek Vice Minister of ‘Economics C. Folias late last year will finish its first phase by the middle of 2006. It consists of a number of individual ICT projects, some of which are already implemented while some are in the design phase. The project is developed under the responsiblity of the Municipality of Trikala.
Some basic principles were settled upon regarding the ICT infrastructure and digital services:
1) The procurement of standardised equipment and of applications built upon open standards
2) Scalability, mobility and interoperability aspects
3) Simplification and usability
From the multiple facets that were kept in mind with regard to information production, ownership, security and deployment, the e-Trikala project set the following targets:
1) The definition of specific XML schemes to structure the information that is produced and exchanged.
2) The use of specific metadata – related to the project – describing ownership and versioning. Moreover, information belonging to the Municipality will be hosted in the Digital City’s infrastructure, and authorisation will be necessary for both access and storing transactions.
3) The Digital City will behave like a ‘trusted third party’ for all local institutions and will verify the application and deliver the appropriate results.
Here are some of the following ethical issues that were looked into:
1) Consent of all involved parties must be secured, while the operation and the risks of the Digital City must be previously presented in detail.
2) The authorisation of the Digital City to act as a trusted third party must be accepted by all involved partners.
3) Citizens must be aware of all parties who will have access to sensitive
4) Technical administrators will not have access to private data or to global data coming from different applications. Only authorised parties will have authorisation to view and investigate global data.
5) Security options will be applied to infrastructure and information level. Security will be applied even in the portal of the Digital City, in order for third parties not to investigate visitor statistical data.
6) The participant who will administer the operation of the Digital City will be responsible for monitoring and supporting social participation.
In e-Trikala, the Municipality followed the top-down implementation procedure as authorised by the city council. However, after the first presentation of e-Trikala, citizen reactions against a possible digital divide and regarding privacy concerns caused a technophobic retroaction to the initial design. Since the Municipality had gained the confidence of the local community, it managed to handle the initial reactions and to proceed to the incorporation of social teams into the design team. This can be a lesson for all projects related to Digital City projects.
The Digital City discovers all social and technical aspects related to the Information Society and to the interconnection between traditional and virtual spaces.
In the development methodology of e-Trikala, we tried to present how all these aspects were considered and treated. The combination of bottom-up and top-down design of the new digital environment was selected to support the risk management of all aspects and encourage social involvement.
Projects already implemented
• Promotion of Broadband use in the area of Trikala
• Municipal Library’s helpdesk
Projects already designed
• Metropolitan Area Network (MAN)
• Wireless Broadband Network
• Municipal digital public services via e-Government portal
• Tele-care system
Projects at the design phase
• Training courses on ICT for Civil Servants
• Electronic marketplace for local enterprises
• Geographical Information System of emergency management
• Metropolitan ERP System
• Distance learning courses
• Digital broadcast system for cultural events
The Digital City of e-Trikala is still in the implementation phase. However, we predict that it will constitute a dynamic environment that will evolve and be driven by social needs. This Digital City will be a test for all participants – the Government, the Municipality, citizens and enterprises – to create virtual communities and to co-exist in a new environment.
The future steps of the Digital City are the maintenance of the framework – which represents a huge investment – and the administration of the dynamic technical, informational and social evolution that will occur. Marketing options and social issues will both be taken into consideration, while academicians and social workers will be invited to support this endeavour.
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