Main Takeaways and Recording of the EUROCITIES City Dialogue on The Use of Technologies in Response to COVID-19

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  • economy
  • knowledge society
publication date
26-05-2020
document type

About this City Dialogue

In current disruptive times, the power of digitalisation and the role and the impact of technologies, is more than ever high in the agendas of EU politicians and policy makers, as tool to respond to the health crisis. While the EU is promoting a common approach for safe mobile contact tracing apps, national governments are discussing and in some cases already developing and deploying solutions. In this context, cities will be the testing ground of the tracing apps and technological solutions.

Many city CIOs are currently under pressure to provide advices and recommendations to local politicians, not only in terms of technical and technological requirements but also of societal impact. EUROCITIES KSF wishes to develop a concise and handy guide with arguments and recommendations for CIOs and digital policy advisors to help them to get a wider view of the effects of those apps and technological measures.

The recording of the session is available here

Agenda

  • Welcome by Michael Donaldson, CIO of Barcelona City Council
  • Introduction by Federica Bordelot, EUROCITIES
  • Goal and objectives of the meeting by Joan Batlle – Barcelona
  • The European digital response to the crisis: adopted measures and approaches at EU level by Federica Bordelot
  • The city cases: Ghent, Bordeaux, Barcelona and Nicosia
  • Discussion with the cities moderated by Joan Batlle
  • Conclusions and next steps 

Summary

The session was kickstarted by Michael Donaldson (CTO from Barcelona) who highlighted the role that technology has played during the early days of the pandemic to enable working from home, studying or buying goods. He added that technologies will now acquire more protagonism, being everywhere in the public sphere, with technologies that are starting to arise to trace our individual and global mobility and in this dialogue we come together to reflect on this issue.

Joan Batlle (Barcelona City Council) guided us through the purpose and scope of this meeting: to share knowledge and exchange experiences with the ultimate aim of compiling and co-creating a guideline with recommendatios from cities for cities. Interested cities can take part in this short-term action by sending an e-mail to federica.bordelot@eurocities.eu.

Federica Bordelot from EUROCITIES, provided an overview of the european digital response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

8 April – The European Commission put forward a set of recomendations for a common approach to digital tools, measures and data in two areas: 1) mobile apss in social distancing and 2) common scheme for using anonymised aggregated data in mobility of people.

15 April – The European Commission published the EU Toolbox – a practical guide for MS with a list of essential requirements for the development and use of contact tracing and monitoring performances. The toolbox is a living document and is the baseline for specifications: proximity detection, follow-up and the actions from the EC.

13 May – Interoperability guidelines for approved contact tracing mobile applications in the EU

Other initiatives are:

- Cities Coalition for Digital Rights - Recommendations: Safeguarding Digital Rights when Applying COVID-19 Related Technologies

- Overview of initiatives across Member States

- EUROCITIES Citizen Data Principles

- GDPR

Lastly, representatives from the cities of Ghent, Bordeaux, Barcelona and Nicosia, exposed their cases on contact tracing apps and other technologies, highlighting the challenges they had faced as well as the opportunities for testing new technologies: 

Ghent highlighted how the city had somehow taken up a new role as an employer, in an attempt of using and adopting technology to ensure that it can be used safely.
Meanwhile, Bordeaux highlighted the challenge that the collection of information and consensus-reaching among different actors can sometimes be an impediment to responding with the desired agility. In Barcelona, there is an interest in the management of crowds in public spaces, for which they have launched a pilot to count the number of people accessing beaches and share the data publicly, next to the use of AI-based solutions such as image processing. Moreover, the municipality of Nicosia is leading the project RISE, financed under the Horizon 2020 programme for the development of COVTRACER, an application that allows for an accurate temporal history in the user's phone and are currently exploring other technologies and possibilities for the app. 

Main Takeways of the challenges identified during meeting:

  • Agility - how to react fast and adapt to this new situation 
  • The role of the city in decision-making
  • Interoperability across cities and how to achieve it for the benefit of citizens
  • Cooperation - reaching consensus among different actors is essential but can be time-consuming
  • Communication to citizens is key at all political levels 
  • Privacy vs. social safety

The presentation is available for download in the attachment below. 

   EUROCITIES_CityDialogue_ContactTracingAppdownload/preview this file

EUROCITIES staff contact

Federica Bordelot
federica.bordelot@eurocities.eu