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Better Stakeholder Engagement and Democratic Governance through Local Digital Twins

When it comes to Local Digital Twins (LDTs), stakeholder engagement plays a role during solution development and its subsequent deployment. At the development stage, stakeholder input is needed to ensure that a LDT meets the needs of its primary user group, which is usually policymakers. They must articulate their needs to the technical team, specifying what they want to do and see using a LDT.

Some cities will have climate neutrality high on the political agenda, so the use cases that focus on trends in and simulations of energy consumption and carbon emissions from traffic, built environment, land use, industrial processes, and so on would be a priority. Other cities might see LDT more as a decision support tool for emergency response, therefore prioritising real-time monitoring of water levels and the need for multi-model simulations involving waterways, urban transport, pedestrian flows and buildings. Whatever the use case, the involvement of end-users in the solution design over a series of testing and development cycles helps prevent a LDT from becoming yet another data platform that is capable of producing great visuals but, in reality, hardly ever used to solve real-life policy challenges.

Once a LDT becomes operational, stakeholder participation can move up a gear, but only in certain cases. This largely depends on the nature of LDT a city has. Some LDTs are closed solutions used solely by governments. Some are open, and it this type of ‘network oriented’ LDTs that extends the traditional user base beyond policymakers. You can read more about different LDT types here.

DUET’s platform, for example, can be accessed by anyone to see the impact of road closures on traffic and pollution in nearby streets (Pilsen), to find green routes for recreation and walking (Athens), or to understand how pollution levels, both air and noise, change according to traffic volumes (Ghent). Other cities that opted for a network-oriented solution allow companies to improve their service offering based on climate data provided through the platform (Helsinki). And in Rotterdam, the ambition is to allow citizens to design urban spaces in a digital twin environment and then see the proposed changes in real life using an Augmented Reality app.

All these examples show that stakeholder engagement in the context of network-oriented LDT allows wider groups of urban stakeholders to become part of the vibrant, smart city ecosystem. Thanks to this LDT type, citizens can have a much greater influence over policy processes, instead of just being on the receiving end of policy decisions. As they review, tweak and propose alternatives to original plans using a LDT, not only does this help improve public policies, the actual link between government and civil society becomes stronger as a result, leading to better governance and democratic outcomes for everyone.

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