Internet, cities and citizens

The cities want to become the new players in the evolution of the Internet. Taking decisive and coordinated innovation policies, their citizens can be the driving force of change. The new innovation model can be the Quadruple Helix based in its own innovative citizens, along with the other actors of the system research and development. They are creating this new Internet, which can be the most powerful lever for change we have to overcome the crisis.

In this sense, Catalonia has a fabric of dynamic cities, capable of being international tourist attraction with events like the Mobile World Capital. Barcelona, the capital, retains a stamp of creativity and innovation, largely inherited, which is undergoing renovation. The merger of the Internet with the cities and citizens can offer new opportunities for the future in Catalonia, and thus become a model intelligent city with smart users.


The dominant model to engage cities in the future of Internet is called Smart Cities. It is based on the deployment of infrastructure and large numbers of devices that involve high maintenance costs and hamper design models economically more sustainable. 

Nevertheless, year after year, a new approach is getting momentum. The new concept put the stress in the Smart Citizen. In an era of social networking, why do not to make synergies betweeen such approach and the cities. Why not to talk about social networking cities? The model of the Smart City is based in the " Internet of things". The city is a place. Its infrastructure is a basic historical asset. But its key assets are their citizens. The Internet of things is fine but it is better an Internet of everyone and everything.

A first step in that direction is the " citizen sensor”. Forecasts are showing a clear trend towards a universal access to mobile phones and that these machines be connected to Internet. The alliance between the cellular phones and Internet is explosive. Following the Internet World Statistics, in June 2012 from a global population of 7,017,846,922 people there were 2,405,518,376 users, a 34.3% of the total population. A growth between 2010 and 2012 of 566.4 %. 

But laptop-based Internet are increasingly overcome by the smartphone-based Internet. Today the majority of people, especially in emerging countries, are increasingly being connected by cellular phones, evolving towards smartphones. The pervasiveness of cell phones has become a reality for the whole world. In 2014 the world accounts more or less the same cell phones than people on Earth. Why not use these phones as producing value for themselves and that they can produce buyers value for their communities?

The first feature that a citizen or user of the network can play is the role of "sensor ". On 19 September 2013 it was held at the UPC the Citisen, a conference which includes researchers in sensor citizens’ networks. The field research was initiated some years ago by the name "participatory sensing". The traditional model of Smart City where local governments and the corporate world seek to develop services for the people not correspond to the interactive Internet architecture. It belongs to the old political-economic model called "broadcast " where few communicate with many, instead of the model where many Internet users can communicate with many, and where the citizen can be both a receiver and a transmitter content. The citizens begin to discover that they can produce services by themselves, if someone requests it or allows it. The paternalistic model of the twentieth century "services for citizens" gives way to " citizen services " in the Internet age.

During the first 25 years of the Internet protocols have established the basis for the operation of the network as a general purpose tool, its evolution, if it manages to survive, it seems that would be made in the coming decades, the deployment transversal fields where still hardly penetrated with force. Internet has been deployed to residential environments, media, social networks and others but has little presence in the industrial world, health systems, the world of food and the same cities, the majority of the human habitat in the XXI century.

Assuming that each person will have a mobile device with Internet access, this is a clear sign that we are moving from the Internet of Things (or Internet of Things), in the Internet world and anything or process. Otherwise called Internet of Everything.


For years, we have come to repeating the traditional culture of Catalonia based on a rich fabric of societal structures corresponds largely to the world of Internet culture. Organizations such as the Internet Society, which still oversees the evolution of Internet, explain to everyone that the Internet model is user centric "user centric".

Internet was not designed from the core to the access like the other traditional telecommunications networks. It was designed under the “end-to-end principle”. The reason is simple. During the Cold War, the U.S. government did not want that a nuclear disaster could distroy their command and control system. For that reason, they accepted a distributed network model more reliable and able to continue working even in case of disaster. Paul Baran in its famous 1964 article at RAND developed the three types of networks: centralized, decentralized and distributed. The choice was for the third one. That put power in the hands of computer science researchers who worked for DARPA instead of in the hand of the traditional telecom operators. 

Today, the "edges" of the network are no longer just the DARPA computer scientists but billions of users around the world who have the ability to create applications and services that reach the other end of the network, that is, the rest of the world, in seconds. This principle allows time and an evolutionary expansion of the network through their ends, automatically giving the user unprecedented power of communication. It is true that at the same time, this expansion allows the growth of giants companies like Google or Facebook (as before Microsoft) seeking to manage the world of information, “doing good”. At the same time, federal agencies like NSA tries to sniff security potential dangers. However, while trying to keeping the Internet into "their internet ", they cannot avoid working within protocols and network architecture based in a user centric approach.

Some large corporations or states, continue to dream of the days following the Minitel or repeat the Great Wall in digital. But the Internet, even a little aged already, still maintains its vitality.


Based on the above premises and following the evolution of Internet. It was a time when Internet was only for computer scientists. Then it was opened to the academic world, then in the middle of 90s to the companies and the countries, mainly in the developed ones. Now more and more cities from all over the world are becoming aware of this revolution. Local governments, the public institutions closer to citizens, are beginning to consider how the Internet can change the world of cities, the main human habitat in the twenty-first century, 70% of all human beings will live in it.

But no one knows today how the Internet could transform cities. These ecosystems are entering in a period of experimentation. The opportunities are many, and many possibilities of failure also. And here it comes a second structural feature of the Interne that differentiates it from other traditional networks.

Internet began as an experimental and service network for research and innovation. The computer scientist that created it were researchers. ARPANET was two things: a network of researchers and a research network in itself, deployed to investigate. Put another way, it was, and it is, an open experiment. In fact, the generation of protocols that the community research engineers set up is still operational and maintain by a volunteer group called the IETF, the Internet Engineering Task Force, still responsible for maintaining and improving these protocols. They work with a unique code of conduct: "rough consensus and working code ".

In the last decade, the Internet has deepened its evolution giving an increasing power to the end user, the citizen. Web 2.0, wikis, blogs, social networks. The Internet innovation initiated by a handful of experts is now open. The Internet are made not only by the IETF. The World Wide Web consortium maintain the protocols of the Web. Other cooperative entities like Wikipedia maintain the best repository of user-driven content in the Web. Of course companies like Google, Facebook are also producing platforms that empower the citizen, but also to their businesses. More important, Internet is not anymore a Euroamerican network. The first continent is now Asia (44.8%) followed by Europe (21.5%). North America is the third one with only 11.4% of the total Internet user community.

Internet is becoming the infrastructure of a new system of innovation, much more complex than traditional one. Research and innovation is no longer a monopoly of universities, large corporations and large public research laboratories. It also comes from new professionals and entrepreneurs from other disciplines and backgrounds. There is an explosion of innovative individuals and communities grouped like wikipedians, arduins, fablabers and makers, digital artists, citizen scientists, digital entrepreneurs, social innovators, co-workers, innovative seniors... the majority of them are living in our cities and already contributing to the vitally of the Internet.

In our city, step by step there is the emerging idea of the city as a collaboratory, a citizen laboratory, where citizens can become not only sensors, but co-creators, agents of innovation of the XXI century societies.

If the metaphor of the previous innovation model was the " industrial cluster" (cloister: closed), the new model is the emerging as open living lab, an open laboratory citizen. The Internet as a "Collaboratory", term invented by William Wulff at the National Science Foundation in 1989.

The classical model of the innovation systems based on science and technology parks where large universities, governments and large enterprises work within a Triple Helix model is not sufficient to explain the dynamics of the innovation societies. New players are entering in the game. The term Quadruple Helix indicates the emergence of complex actors call generically by the name of "citizenship." (See European project Cliq).

i2CAT Foundation aims to contribute to this new phase of the Internet by creating a new program on "Internet cities and citizens." 

This program will allow us to coordinate various fields increasingly intertwined: ICT research in telecom networks, devices and sensors and mobile multimedia applications, and its merger with advances in new visions of architecture, urbanism and sustainability around smart cities, along with the new structures open innovation (living labs, laboratories, public, open innovation in companies and public administration), will incorporate all citizens and all communities in creative and innovative to build future cities.

As a first steps in that direction, we can mention international projects like Future Internet Content+, or the European Networks of Living Labs, but also local projects like Barcelona Lab (innovation and creativity), Ring Industrial (industry), Barcelona Smart City (Smart Cities), or i2Health in collaboration with Hospital Sant Pau (e-Health). 

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