Participatory Action Research for an e-inclusive Smart Brussels

Ilse Mariën, Nils Walravens

Research Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunicaton (SMIT) Smart & ICT & Data

Smart City solutions can, on the one hand, provide an answer to structural social problems in the city such as mobility, safety, dilapidation, illegal dumping or social isolation of vulnerable social groups. On the other hand, innovation and digitization processes within Smart City strategies lead to a Matthew effect where powerful social and digital citizens benefit these solutions more and faster than digitally vulnerable citizens. This is a concrete and realistic risk in the Brussels-Capital Region. Therefore, the PAR4-B project - Participatory Action Research for an e-inclusive Smart Brussels - aims to develop a widely supported e-inclusive smart city master plan for Brussels through a participative and action-oriented research process that (a) identifies the current challenges specific to a digital Brussels; (b) formulates solutions and actions for the realization of an e-inclusive digital Brussels; and (c) develops a future vision for tomorrow's digital Brussels. The PAR4-B project actively focuses on the offline and online bringing together of 4 stakeholder groups from the smart city domain and the e-inclusion field, in particular (1) policy makers; (2) private actors; (3) civil society organizations and public institutions; and (4) citizens of Brussels, including vulnerable social groups such as people in poverty, long-term unemployed, NEETs (not in training, training, or employment), existing civil society platforms, action groups, neighborhood committees, ...

When people do not have access to certain technologies or do not master the skills to use them, classically one speaks of the digital divide, but when this technology becomes invisible, ubiquitous and integrated into public space, this gap quickly becomes a fault line that no longer can be bridged. PAR4-B wants to provide an answer to this by positioning itself at the intersection of the domains of e-Inclusion and Smart City, in order to define a way forward that has a significant impact on all the actors in the long term. The PAR4-B project will lead to a sustainable and inclusive vision on tomorrow’s digital Brussels.

Duration: 11/1/2018 tot 31/12/21