If Silicon Valley elites have become 2 parts liberal to 1 part libertarian, Barcelona techies have become 1 part wild-eyed radicals to 2 parts Get-R-Done. If you’re feeling a little depressed about the world, do yourself a favor and watch this amazing talk by Barcelona’s CTO, Francesca Bria on “Barcelona’s Strategy for Digital Sovereignty.” The scope of what they’ve been working on is breaktaking, and what they’ve managed to accomplish so far is pretty damn impressive. What I particularly appreciated was the effort to blend really bold ideas and smart, practical on-the-ground ideas. It’s not that often you hear someone talk about emancipatory democratic visions, movement building, and strategeies for procurement reform in the same breath — one good sign that this is the real deal.
What’s particularly exciting about this work happening right now is that it’s taking place in an environment where cities across the globe are beginning to learn from each other and collaborate much more than they had in the past. In another talk at the same conference, Mark Watts, Executive Director for C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, walked through a variety of examples of how innovations developed by a few cities have gotten implemented by other cities at a remarkable speed (ironically, spurred on in part by Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Accords). So as Barcelona and their collaborators continue to break new ground, these ideas might actually come to a city near you.