By |2024-01-04T14:12:14+01:00November 25th 2020|Resilient Cities and Climate, Sustainable Infrastructure|

Cities around the world are facing similar challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for physical distancing has once more emphasised the need for digital innovation in local governance processes. The ideas competition #SolutionsForCities provides a platform where cities and solution providers can further develop and adjust solutions for urban challenges in times of a pandemic.

International Digital Ideas Competition #SolutionsForCities to Help Cities Cope With the COVID-19 Pandemic

According to the United Nations, 90 per cent of reported coronavirus cases are concentrated in urban areas. The COVID-19 pandemic aggravates existing problems, increases inequalities, and strains already overburdened cities and municipalities and its health, water, and other systems.

Whether it is Bhubaneshwar in India, Guadalajara in Mexico, or Kaiserslautern in Germany, cities around the world are currently facing similar challenges. All kinds of social interaction, be it moving around or working together, have been restricted to protect the health of citizens and to limit the spread of the virus. The use of digital solutions made it possible to stay in touch with family and friends, work together with colleagues all over the world, and deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In this sense, cities worldwide experienced a boost in their digital transformation.

ISCN: International Smart Cities Network to Foster Knowledge Exchange on Digital Transformation of Cities

In order to foster the international knowledge exchange on the digital transformation of cities, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) initiated the International Smart Cities Network (ISCN). Implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the ISCN promotes the integration of digital solutions into citizen-centred urban development processes and facilitates the exchange of good practices and experiences between cities, urban development ministries, as well as academia worldwide.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ISCN needed to rethink its exchange formats. On-site network and international exchange events have been replaced by online formats such as the online event series “Digital Urban Solutions in Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which was organised throughout June and July 2020. This format enabled a first exchange on urban challenges and on questions which arose due to the pandemic.

How can we transfer innovative solutions from the pandemic to the future? How can we promote sustainable urban development for the common good? To tackle these questions, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) initiated the international, digital ideas competition #SolutionsForCities.

#SolutionsForCities: Targeting Local Urban Challenges

#SolutionsForCities offers an opportunity for cities to find suitable digital solutions as an answer to their local challenges and to promote sustainable urban development for the common good. A total of eleven cities are taking part in the competition. These are the German Smart City Model Projects Kaiserslautern, Bamberg, Kassel, Wolfsburg, and Süderbrarup from Germany, the ISCN partner cities Kochi, Bhubaneshwar, and Coimbatore from India, as well as the cities of Miraflores from Peru, Fortaleza from Brazil, and Guadalajara from Mexico.

Challenge Labs

In two-day online Challenge Labs, current challenges of the participating cities were identified along with Design Thinking coaches. These challenges were then published on the platform #SolutionsForCities with the Call for Solutions.


Call for Solutions

The global call for the submission of digital solutions aimed at finding answers to the local challenges of the participating cities. It was addressed at international companies and start-ups, as well as local authorities, research institutions, and civil society. Until November 9th 2020, digital solutions for the urban challenges declared could be submitted.


Currently, the participating cities are selecting the most suitable solutions for their challenges. In a next step they will form teams with their chosen solution providers and together compete in the Scalathon. The Scalathon is the core of the ideas competition and will take place from November 23rd – 25th 2020. During the three-day virtual workshop, selected solution providers will work closely together with the respective city or municipality. With the support of Design Thinking coaches, they will further develop the digital solutions and adapt them to the concrete local challenges.

On December 2nd, the winning teams of the ideas competition will be announced at the New Leipzig Charter Digital Symposium, as well as announced on the Smart City Dialogue website from the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI).

Dr. Teresa Kerber
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