In Tarragona, right from the start we saw being awarded the 2017 Mediterranean Games as a chance to accelerate the transformation strategies and dynamics in which the city was immersed. The trigger for our smart city project was the competitive advantages that this event can offer, with the desire that it will leave us a legacy, not only in terms of infrastructure but also the position of the city in a global world, and the construction of an economy and society of knowledge. In times of economic crisis and rethinking of the productive model, we feel the Games open up a privileged door to the world, in particular toward the Mediterranean, an emerging region that in the next decade will become a decisive market for Europe and the rest of the world. A Mediterranean representing cities, and that will be found in the modern forms of diplomacy; local, corporate, university diplomacy and that of civil society organised into professional associations, chambers of commerce, civic entities, etc. – ways to relate to one another and synergies, for development and growth.
“In the next decade the Mediterranean will be a decisive market for Europe and the rest of the world”
The echo of the tragic events happening in the Middle East makes it necessary to promote the Mediterranean city with more emphasis, if necessary. I would even go so far as to say I am convinced that, in the Mediterranean, smart cities are the key to the stability, democratisation and economic growth of this complex region, that concentrates all of the global perspectives of the world. We have defended the fact that there is a typical model of Mediterranean smart cities. Thus, accompanied by Jeremy Rifkin, in the declaration of Tarragona as a Mediterranean Smart City in 2012, where we affirmed that “compared to the ideal global model of a smart city, we characterise Mediterranean cities by the combination of the desire for democratic coexistence and cohesion in open societies, the need for economic transformation processes that, watchful of environmental requirements, enable us to enjoy the quality of life and the diversity of identities and cultural expressions that characterise us”.
The vision of the Mediterranean city as an emerging region in a multi-faceted global world indicates that, in the coming decade, the Mediterranean region is compelled to occupy the place that corresponds to it in the global economy, in a process that inexorably must be marked by respect for the environment and advanced environmental policies, by efficiency and energy savings, and by the use of new technologies, innovation, knowledge and creativity, that will determine a higher quality of life, greater social cohesion and a participative and democratic governability.
“A smart city is one which provides the best quality of life and more opportunities for its citizens.”
From this starting point, it is not hard to understand why, in the concept of Smart Mediterranean, the citizens are at the centre of model. Smart Cities initially responded to a vision of the large multinational companies for marketing new ICT applications and infrastructure in the local area. These first initiatives nevertheless were right in understanding and revealing that the city would be the space for transformation and innovation where the big changes and the largest production of the future would take place. Today the concept of Smart City has changed significantly. Smart is no longer synonymous with technology. Today we speak of cities in movement, cities that rethink and reinvent themselves. Today we cannot speak of smart cities without speaking of energy savings and efficiency, sustainability, urban vegetable gardens, cleaner air, healthy cities, better mobility, and a more transparent administration with greater proximity. Today, and this is the decisive factor, a smart city is one which provides the best quality of life and more opportunities for its citizens, through integrated, transverse and sustainable planning of urban development. Technology yes, but not technology for technology’s sake, self-referential.
We could summarise it by saying that a smart city is a city in which the three great transformations needed at this time take place: an ecological, environmental and sustainability revolution, based on energy generation and efficiency and recycling, but also on responsible consumption and an attitude of savings and post-abundance; a democratic revolution, making decision-making and municipal management more transparent continually interacting with the citizens, facilitating liaison and sharing civic responsibility with the citizens; and finally a revolution in entrepreneurship, self-management, creation and imagination to provide added value to what we do: social and productive innovation.
In consonance with these ideas, we have taken the five axes marked by this Mediterranean nature as the areas of action for our project: water, savings, reuse and care for its quality; sustainable urban mobility; health, healthy habits for lifestyle and nutrition; heritage and cultural tourism; and finally energy efficiency. We are starting with some differentiating assets such as the presence in the region of the chemical industry that can lead to a concept of Mediterranean chemistry, based on sustainability and the incorporation of sensor systems in the materials, in Internet strategy; a density of logistics activities around the Port; and a tourist industry with Roman heritage as one of its driving forces, and the customs and habits of Mediterranean life.
director de la Càtedra Tarragona Smart Mediterranean City