Manifesto for an Inclusive Digital City

Alice Smejkalova
Dec 3, 2018 · 6 min read

With this manifesto we want to argue that Inclusive Digital Cities show the potential for a new direction on how we work with cities and digitalization. The Manifesto consists of 7 statements of what we think the Inclusive Digital City should be.

From the IDC performance exhibition at AHO 12–14 Dec

1. The Inclusive Digital City should give a sense of belonging

Loneliness is a growing health issue in urban life, and fragmented urban societies are a challenge for democracy. The Inclusive Digital City should make people feel accepted and valued. This means that digital urban services must help us connect with others, and make it easier to be engaged in and feel like you belong in the city.

Social sustainability has to be built on engaging and including individuals. A person can not feel included in a city if they do not feel that they belong. Belonging is a feeling of sharing values or ideas with a specific place, culture or group of people. Belonging can also be how a familiar stranger, like someone working in a café, recognizes you and smiles.

Local or site specific services like Nabohjelp makes people feel like they are part of a neighbourhood, and facilitate acts of kindness between people. Culturally specific services like Gay Guerilla Bar create a sense of belonging to a group of people that don’t naturally have a shared place. A service can not fit everyone, and can therefore be perceived as exclusive. Being mindful of this issue in the design process can contribute to creating a sense of belonging without having to rely on the exclusion of others, as we see in the examples above.

2. The Inclusive Digital City must promote collective experiences

Today, most digital urban services are designed to fulfill individual needs. In the Inclusive Digital City, digital services must also meet collective needs. This means that digital urban services have to create collective, social experiences that motivate citizens to include and see each other.

Services like Foodora and Tinder are mainly focusing on the individuals using it. The motivation behind is not contributing to the collective experience of the city. We believe that the motivation should instead be more focused on creating an atmosphere where you feel that you are included and that you belong.

Airbnb is a good example of a digital service that has moved from catering to individual needs, to creating collective experiences. They have launched Airbnb Experiences, which lets people host their own events, so tourists can get together with locals. This is a good example how digital service can shift to provide collective experience instead of focusing on individual needs.

3. The Inclusive Digital City should respect existing urban cultures

Many of today’s digital urban services are designed as general platforms that can be scaled up and be the same across multiple countries and cultures. We believe that this large-scale, top-down view does not promote social and cultural inclusion. Local urban cultures must be the key resources in developing digital urban services.

The inclusive digital city should respect existing cultures as they are, but also allow for building on these existing cultures. Using local cultures when developing digital urban services leads to solutions that people can relate to or identify themselves with.

SIO (Studentsamskipnaden i Oslo og Akershus) offers a range of services for students,such as housing and health. The services are mainly communicate digitally in Norwegian. However many students affiliated with SIO do not speak Norwegian. This is an example of a service that is not aware of who they are providing their service for. This is the opposite from respecting different cultures.

4. The Inclusive Digital City should be built on citizen engagement

Digital urban services need to be designed both with and for people, or else they will not be socially sustainable. We believe that a democratic and inclusive approach to design can create sustainable and diverse services that can develop over time. By including citizens in the development of the digital city, its services can ensure diversity and better meet citizens’ needs and desires.

Cities need to be designed with, and not only for people in order to achieve an overall cultural and social identification with the city itself. By including the people in the development of digital urban services we achieve a more democratic approach, and get a better understanding of their needs.

Barnetråkk is a digital educational tool that lets children say their opinions about their local area to city planners, the municipality and local politicians. This is a good example on how to engage a group of citizens and listen to their needs.

5. The Inclusive Digital City should offer possibilities, not only solutions

Digital urban services today are mostly solution-oriented. We believe that the possibilities made available by the digitalisation of cities include much more than services that cater to utility, efficiency and productivity. Digital urban services should also contribute to social sustainability and inclusive digital cities. The possibilities of building inclusive urban societies must therefore be seen as equally important as profit- and efficiency-driven values.

Urban digital services should not only be about solving one thing at a time, as recycling or filling out a digital form. They should explore the opportunities that the city can provide.We need a change of mindset, and start to think: What more can this be? Remember: An urban digital service can also aim to be delightful.

Finn Småjobber is a digital marketplace for buying and selling services between people. It is a great platform for creating self initiated services, allowing people to use the the platform in many different ways. Finn Småjobber understands that people have different needs. When we create new digital urban services, it is important that we give citizens the possibility to use the service in different ways.

6. The Inclusive Digital City should be flexible

Urban societies and cultures are always changing and evolving. In designing digital urban services for the Inclusive Digital City, we need to take this into consideration. The flux and messiness of the city and urban life needs to be seen as a resource for digital innovations, not as problems to be tamed.

We need to take in consideration that society and cultural change is organic and always evolving. Urban development takes a long time, and planning and building processes take years. Integrating digital urban services into the urban field allows for a more near future approach when we develop our cities.

Oslo City bike is a good example of an urban digital service that taken into consideration that their service needs to change with time. They have realised that in order to make a good service they need to be a part of the city and use the changes in urban culture as a resource.

7. The Inclusive Digital City should make citizens proud

Being proud of your city means feeling like you belong in society, that your opinion matters and that the city is evolving and full of possibilities. Today, digital urban services are mainly evaluated on how they make the cities more productive, profitable and efficient. We believe that the digital city should instead be evaluated on how it contributes to local pride, and how it contribute to improving urban life for all citizens.

We believe that the feeling of local pride should be an evaluation criteria when creating digital urban services. To achieve the feeling of pride the services should symbolize and lift up important values in different cultures and societies. Urban digital services in the Nordic countries should be designed with the same values as the Nordic model — a system that is both democratic and collectively serving.

Vipps is Norway’s largest payment app. It has quickly become loved for its simplicity and friendly tone of voice. Vipps has become a verb (“Can I vipps you the money?”). It has become a service Norwegians are very proud of, and miss when they are abroad. A social bonus is that when someone vippses you, you get to see their full name and you often discover their middle name that they don’t have on Facebook for instance. The app symbolises Nordic values by making something easy and understandable for everyone.


How can we promote a socially and culturally inclusive city through digital services?

Alice Smejkalova

Written by

An experience designer, researcher, biking lover, admire of minimalism, creator of strategic connections, fun maker.


How can we promote a socially and culturally inclusive city through digital services?

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