Digital Education in the Smart Cities of Catalonia

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In May 2014, Barcelona’s City Council published a guide to Digital Education addressed to families. It is a pedagogical but pretty accessible document which compiles recommendations and tips for parents to facilitate the transfer of values by using information and communication technology in a healthier, less addictive, freer, safer, more thought-out and less improvised way. Although the document’s final target is the children, there are many tips that allude indirectly to adult behaviour regarding the use of devices, screens and the internet. 

Later, the city of Girona also published a document that addressed the question of how families should educate children regarding issues arising from digital activity from a similar but more interactive perspective.

The willingness of governments and cities who have ventured to approach the topic of ICT in an alternative way is commendable. The urban atmosphere and the global competition between cities, including within Catalonia, revolves around the tag "Smart City"; this is the current arena where we have placed the focus because this is where the industry and the bread are.  

Consequently, it does not give the impression that the concept and the need for a Digital Education is a subject that can receive applause nor a welcome on behalf of the ecosystem of the Smart City, which is more accustomed to a futuristic yet a triumphalist approach to the ICT. It does not have much space for leisurely, thoughtful and even sceptical discourse, in times which require the consideration of Digital Education.

Besides this, concepts that tend to make money, such as the idea of the Smart City, often undergo a process of semantic expansion. These terms which are borrowed from the English, if kept in the original language without being translated into the local language, can give the feeling of being broad and vague, without a concrete meaning, an ideal as a label or a slogan that is used to present a good brand image. During the linguistic spreading of the concept, which has both its positive and negative aspects, the Smart Cities have been given responsibilities, objectives and capabilities. If the ICT of a city should serve the citizens’ quality of life, then should Digital Education not also be a core element of the Smart Cities? Sant Cugat del Vallès, for example, has ventured to mention this alternative side to ICT on the City Council website and in this case aims to become a “Social” Smart City. In yet another example of making progress, its leaders have understood that a city itself cannot be intelligent – to be "Smart" the city must have a social element, which is to serve the welfare of the people living there. For this reason, they have also decided to send a paper copy of the guide “50 Tips on Digital Education” to every household in the city.


Oriol Torres i Tornel

Consultant in #Digital Education, Online Ethics and Online Innovation

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