Sustainability in Smart Cities: The Case of Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) – A Commitment to a New Urban Paradigm

Sustainability in Smart Cities: The Case of Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) – A Commitment to a New Urban Paradigm

Dolores Gallardo Vázquez, María Teresa Nevado Gil
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1978-2.ch012
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Cities play an important role in the development of economies, generating wealth and well-being for citizens, providing better, energy efficient and sustainable services and giving residents their rightful place as the cornerstone of city management. Spain has a quite unique example of a smart city, Vitoria-Gasteiz. This is an emblematic city for Europe, which awarded this municipality the title of European Green Capital 2012. This paper seeks to analyse the best sustainable practices through a case study based on content analysis of this city's website. In the social dimension, the results highlight the promotion of resident participation through municipal services, to ensure public debate and transparency. In the environmental dimension, the city has a sustainable mobility plan that aims to reverse the trend towards an increased use of private vehicles by promoting the use of buses, trams and bicycles. Finally, in the economic dimension, the findings underscore the city's economic rigour, transparency in management and economic recovery.
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In recent years, social and economic challenges have arisen from population growth and expanded urbanisation. The growth of the world’s population, in general, and cities, in particular, is now exponential (Enerlis, Ernst and Young, Ferrovial & Madrid Network, 2012). This urban population growth has not emerged through natural processes (i.e. more births), but, instead, people have migrated from less economically favoured areas to more developed regions. In short, cities all over the world are in a state of flux, exhibiting increasingly complex dynamics (Caragliu, Del Bo & Nijkamp, 2009).

This growing influx of people into cities requires new thinking about how to meet the demand for public services, which have to meet more and more citizens’ needs. At the same time, the trend towards urbanisation is intensifying, so policymakers must address the need to provide more services to more people. Clearly, this dramatic increase in population has created a number of problems, such as difficulties in social organisation, complex territorial management and environmental degradation (Chourabi et al., 2012; Enerlis et al., 2012). The purpose of public government is to preserve the wellbeing of its citizens, but many cities’ infrastructure and existing resources are stretched beyond their capacity. Problems associated with urban agglomerations are normally solved through creativity, human capital and cooperation among stakeholders, as well as with bright scientific ideas – in a nutshell, ‘smart solutions’ (Caragliu et al., 2009). All this has led experts to conclude that, currently, city management is a difficult task due to high population density and a large number of different interconnected issues (Cardone et al., 2013). In this context, Belanche, Casaló and Orús (2016) observe that the increasing use of urban services enhances the efficiency of urban management and favours social, environmental and economic sustainability.

Urban living, by its very nature, already creates major challenges in residents’ daily lives. Currently, more than 400 cities exist with more than 1 million inhabitants, as well as 23 megacities (i.e. metropolitan areas with a population of more than 10 million), mainly in Asia (UN, 2012). The United Nations (UN) Population Fund forecasts that, by 2030, approximately 60% of the world’s population will live in an urban environment, while 27 megacities with more than 10 million residents are projected to appear (Vlacheas et al., 2013). Cardone et al. (2013) affirm that large cities are already extremely important in social development. A full 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, the top 100 urban centres account for 25% of the global gross domestic product and, by 2050, the total urban population will be almost 6.4 billion people. In developed countries, this percentage is even higher (i.e. more than 86%). Global urbanisation is taking place at an unparalleled speed. In 1970, there were just two megacities (i.e. Tokyo and New York). In 1990, there were 10, in 2011, 23, and, by 2025, there will be 37 megacities (Van Leeuwen & Sjerps, 2016). Given this situation, global resources must be treated as limited and scarce, and a growing population implies pressures on these, creating a higher demand for water and energy.

From a social perspective, the tightly knit collaborative communities of cities promote a free flow of ideas, leading to exponentially greater innovation. In this context, an example of just such innovative measures is how governments have undertaken ‘smart city’ (SC) initiatives to bring better services that respond to the demands of an increasingly urban population. Therefore, SCs enable a set of initiatives that city leaders can undertake that lead to a better use of resources. These measures imply different innovations based on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in order to develop more efficient services (Vlacheas et al., 2013). In this way, governments have instituted innovations in education, healthcare, public safety, utilities, administration and other areas.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sustainable Development: When organisations’ development fulfils current needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their needs.

The UN’s Agenda 21: This agenda is a comprehensive action plan to be followed globally, nationally and locally by UN organisations, governments and major groups in every area in which human activities have environmental impacts. More information is available at .

IRRIGESTLIFE Project: The LIFE11 ENV/ES/615 project’s main objective was to develop an improved watering system for irrigating parks and urban gardens. This system also can be adapted for any other environment needing better irrigation management. More information is available at .

Crowdsourcing: A type of collaboration that outsources tasks previously performed by employees, involving other groups of people or communities through open calls for support.

European CIVITAS MODERN Project: Four MODERN cities have put together a package of activities to develop cleaner and better urban transport based on stakeholder engagement and a performance-led approach. They are dedicated to building on past efforts and substantially improving all citizens’ quality of life. More information is available at .

International Data Corporation (IDC): A company that does market research and analysis, as well as consulting and organising events for ICT markets. More information is available at AU60: URL Validation failed because the page does not exist (HTTP error 404). .

Responsive Web Design: An approach to design and development that adapts the appearance of web pages to fit the devices used to view online content.

European Strategic Energy Technology Plan: This plan (SET-Plan) seeks to speed up the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies, improving new technologies and reducing costs by co-ordinating research and financing projects. More information is available at .

Covenant of Mayors: Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete proclaimed this to be the ‘largest urban initiative in the world in the fields of climate and energy’. The Mayors’ Climate and Energy Pact brings together thousands of local and regional authorities voluntarily committed to applying EU climate and energy objectives in their areas. More information is available at .

The EU’s Digital Agenda: This agenda, presented by the European Commission, forms one of the seven pillars of the Europe 2020 growth strategy, which sets objectives for EU growth by 2020. The agenda proposes to exploit more fully the potential of ICTs, to encourage progress, innovation and economic growth. More information is available at .

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