REAL CORP SHAPING URBAN CHANGE LIVABLE CITY REGIONS FOR THE 21st CENTURY, Aachen, Germany, 15 - 18 September 2020, pp.835-845
Since the 1990s, the Greater Municipality of Istanbul has been investing in intelligent, digital services and supporting infrastructures, while at the same time Istanbul has started to become an important centre for ICT technologies. Recently, the efforts of the municipality and the private stakeholders are significantly up-scaled as the city has become an important international business, transportation and digital hub. One of the most recent efforts to tackle the city’s management challenges is the “Smart City Istanbul Program” which covers a range of activities from developing a Smart City benchmark model to the assessment of the metropolitan city with a specific Maturity Model. The Greater Municipality has recently developed an assessment and monitoring model for Istanbul’s development as an international financial sector. The development of other models focusing on particular issues is also on the agenda. In a way, the municipality is trying to establish an information-rich intelligence base that focuses on strategic priority areas. These efforts may contribute to the adaptation of the global and national metropolitan agenda that pushes metropolitan governments to establish evidence-based policies and integrated management supported by indicator systems that allow benchmarking city-regions. The development of such intelligence capabilities poses significant challenges. Meticulous encouragement of participatory processes by the Greater Municipality of Istanbul itself within its own activities should facilitate the diffusion of its emerging knowledge assets to other stakeholders, thereby creating a dynamic and complex environment of urban intelligence building. Enhancing the quality of participatory processes is thus very important. The paper provides information on the participatory methodological approach used in the establishment of the Smart City Assessment and Monitoring Model, developed by the authors in collaboration with the Greater Municipality of Istanbul and its affiliate ISBAK. It also discusses the benefits and challenges associated with the Smart City Assessment Models based on a rich literature survey. The approach employed is particularly aimed at avoiding empty signifier problems, feeding participatory processes with rich information, establishing trust among stakeholders, avoiding fuzziness and indecisiveness, and enabling the production of a small set of mutually agreed and selected benchmark indicators which can later successfully inform maturity models.
Lessons learned are: the involvement of specialised practitioners in the Smart City domain in disseminating
local information into the process; the use of a layered participatory process to enable evaluation and
agreement on a large set of indicators in a relatively short time; and the co-presence of these two processes to
help avoid empty signifier problems. The paper suggests that it is possible to tackle the unique challenges
associated with Smart City development activities. Enabling repetitive benchmarking processes makes it
possible to challenge rapid technological change and achieve convergence. Layered participatory processes
work better when practitioner teams also see potentials in collaboration. Also third, feedback mechanisms
should be provided at different layers of participatory processes as they enhance decision-making processes.