As the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) cities turn their roadmaps into action plans on the next leg of the journey, the city of Ulm in Germany has developed an innovative and inclusive method to directly involve its citizens in the smart city transformation.

Ulm recently engaged local citizens through hosting ‘pit stops’ - open spaces in the city centre where citizens were invited to discuss urban development and digital solutions. Under the campaign motto of "Mission for a digital tomorrow", Ulm encouraged participants to contribute their experiences, wishes and ideas for making the city more open, sustainable and liveable for the future. Contributions from all were welcomed – from children to international visitors to online only users who could use the 24/7 online participation format. Understanding the perspectives of all stakeholders in this way is an essential part of developing smart city strategies and is one that is strongly encouraged through the ICC’s thematic track of Citizen participation and digitisation of public administration.

On display: Ulm’s digital development achievements

Ulm's digital development is guided by the Smart City Charter and the Sustainable Development Goals in order to focus on the common good, sustainability and quality of life in digitalisation. The city administration has long been invested in how digitalisation can contribute to living together in the city, to culture, education, mobility and other issues. The display explained how open data, free software and transparency plays an important role for Ulm, underpinned by a confirmed data ethics concept. The opportunity to experience real digital application scenarios such as how crack sensors help to maintain Ulm Cathedral were offered. The display highlights how Ulm’s participation in the Intelligent Cities Challenge allows the city to follow its vision of being “a citizen-oriented, sustainable and liveable digital city” in Europe and foster European cooperation.

Different opportunities for contribution 

Together with different stakeholders, the digital department of the city administration regularly organises various free events and workshops that take place both on site and online:  Participants had the opportunities to test out several initiatives to inspire their ideas such as testing the new mobility station for sharing cars, cargo bikes and e-scooters. An ‘Urban Design Thinking Lab’ that seeks to generate joint ideas and "prototypes" of solutions using citizens' needs and everyday experiences as a starting point was also featured as part of the pit stop. The overall aim is for designs to be user friendly, everyday and positive urban and digital experiences that reflect the citizens they serve.

Further information on the initiative is available in both German and English here.

The ICC welcomes this innovative inclusion of greater citizen participation and looks forward to seeing how Ulm utilises the results to shape its future ICC path as it begins its implementation phase.