How Can Cities Innovate Themselves?
Keynote Speech at the Asia Future Forum
Date: October 16, 2012
Venue: Millennium Seoul Hilton
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am Park Won Soon, the mayor of Seoul. I am honored to have this opportunity to welcome and express my sincere gratitude to the participants of the 3rd Asia Future Forum. I greatly appreciate those who have made this meaningful event possible, and offer you my genuine respect. I would also like to thank all the citizens who came here to join in the festivities. I believe that the connections, alliances, and friendships forged today will make our cities and our lives even happier. Do you agree?
We are gathered here today to make a better tomorrow. And as we hold this forum under the theme, “Transforming Leadership 2013,” we should recognize that the leadership of this new era relies on collective intelligence. Today, I would like to introduce the “big, beautiful ship” of Seoul, the new leadership that is steering this ship, and the leadership of Seoul citizens. I also want to talk about innovation and the future direction of Seoul.
It is true that power, once concentrated in the government and the market, has now shifted to the people. Furthermore, in the 21st century, more than half of all human beings are living in cities, where they have created a foundation for their lives and values.
The foundation of our lives is moving from nations to cities, which are becoming a large part of the identities of their citizens. As such, we are now living in an era where the identity of an individual is determined more by the city in which they live rather than their nationality.
Throughout the 20th century, the world order, governed by nations, has repeatedly become mired in confrontation and conflict. Disappointed by these ongoing national struggles, the people are increasingly turning their attention to cities. While the nations of the world have devoted much of their efforts toward gathering allies, beefing up ideologies, or highlighting national strength and patriotism, cities have rolled up their sleeves and begun working to resolve their housing issues. Cities commit themselves to operating buses and subway systems and promoting education and culture. They strive to construct waterworks, increase the effectiveness of household waste collection, and manage urban environments and the lives of their citizens. Therefore, it is no surprise that people are starting to realize that their city has more influence on their lives than their nation.
As we enter the 21st century, the increasing value of cities is gaining the attention of scholars around the world. Recently, I had an interview with Dr. Benjamin Barber, an American political theorist. Dr. Barber is expected to publish a book titled, “If Mayors Ruled the World,” which is a compilation of interviews conducted with the mayors of some 30 cities, including me. Edward Glaeser, who is a professor of economics at Harvard as well as a recognized authority on urban economics, once mentioned in his book titled, “Triumph of the City,” that cities are mankind’s greatest invention. A strong indication of this is that, during the Beijing International Art Biennale, all participating nations built halls representing cities instead of countries.
Today, the fact that citizens and mayors from such beautiful cities have focused on promoting their achievements in urban innovation clearly demonstrates the value of today’s cities. I strongly believe that, as opposed to exchanges among nations, practical exchanges and alliances among cities have great potential to improve the lives of our citizens and increase their satisfaction and happiness. Thus, we need to cooperate with one another. In the aftermath of the global economic crisis, we are now faced with increasingly complex social issues, such as the polarization of wealth, youth unemployment, collapse of the community, rising suicide rates, and declining birth rates, requiring that we integrate our wisdom with experience to find new alternatives and solutions before it becomes too late.
It is critical that we pursue urban innovation that focuses attention on the quality of life of all members of our society. But, how can we achieve such innovation in our cities?
First, nothing can be done alone. The ideas and hard work of the people as a whole are far more important than one individual’s talent and creative thinking.
Why was Wikipedia, which outpaced Encyclopedia Britannica, considered innovative? The answer is public participation through an open platform such as the Internet. The same applies to the innovation of a city. Therefore, cities need to encourage citizen participation and foster collaboration among diverse social groups.
True social innovation can only be achieved through openness, sharing, participation, and cooperation.
In his book titled, “The Age of Access,” Jeremy Rifkin said that the “age of ownership” has ended, and that we are now entering an “age of access”. This means that we are now living in an era where being connected is more important than material possessions. In the age of contact, the active sharing of information is critical, as is the creation of quality connections.
In the past, public institutions had a passive attitude toward the disclosure of information, and administration was regarded as an area for public officials only. However, we now need to embrace openness and sharing. Recognizing this, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has established the Information Communication Square, a system that greatly facilitates the disclosure of public information related to city policies.
This has led to increased transparency in the administrative policies of Seoul City, and a significant amount of added value is expected to be generated as well. Another excellent example is the development of public applications by IT experts, which have offered greater convenience to citizens by providing access to data that has been publically disclosed by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
Furthermore, this “age of contact” has led to the rise of the “sharing city”. Recently, the Seoul Metropolitan Government publically announced its Sharing City Seoul initiative, which is a strong indication of Seoul’s determination to become a leader in social innovation achieved through citizen participation and cooperation.
Until recently, citizens have been “consumers” of policy and urban infrastructure. However, with the power of collective intelligence, citizens have taken on a whole new role through their provision of necessary services and active participation and cooperation in city administration.
In the future, through the leadership of its citizens, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will become an innovative city as well as a sharing city.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will step forward to achieve true sharing through small innovations. For example, if 10 percent of Seoul citizens joined in an initiative to share their parking lots, the benefit would be equivalent to the construction of a 3,725-floor parking structure, saving the city about KRW 186.2 billion in construction costs. If 1,000 urban households participated in an urban homestay program, the benefit would be equivalent to the construction of 20 lodging facilities of 50 rooms each. If 500 unused spaces, such as auditoriums and meeting rooms of public institutions, were shared, the benefit would be equivalent to the construction of a community center with 10 classrooms. In 2013, approximately KRW 1.6 billion was invested in Seoul’s Sharing City project, and the anticipated economic benefits may reach up to KRW 167.5 billion.
Also, the citizens of Seoul will share their history. Seoul was the capital of the Joseon Dynasty for 500 years, and before that, it was part of the kingdom of Baekje, giving the city a long, rich history. Through the preservation and reconstruction of the remnants of Seoul’s Baekje past, the reconstruction of Seoul City Wall, and the conservation of modern cultural heritage properties, our city will maintain the vitality it has built throughout its long history.
The value of sharing through innovations will outshine in our lives, and the Village Community Project is an excellent example. By raising and teaching children in an environment based on sharing and imparting values ranging from culture, food, housing, and health, communities can increase the happiness of residents and restore relationships between neighbors. As such, this will serve to improve the lives of citizens. Furthermore, isolated and underprivileged citizens who have fallen through the cracks of the welfare system will no longer be overlooked by their neighbors, crime rates will drop, and a variety of social costs will be saved.
The original concept of a city was a platform for sharing. However, although Seoul has already established a primary sharing system in terms of urban spaces, such as roads, parks, and squares, it will now establish a secondary and tertiary sharing system by sharing knowledge and information in addition to physical and human networks.
Now, the Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to streamline our city. Based on the power of sharing, Seoul seeks to achieve innovations that will allow the coexistence of humans and nature—as well as technology and history—and secure the happiness of its citizens while pursuing sustainable growth.
Seoul is in a particularly advantageous position in terms of sharing. We have a long history of “sharing culture,” so much so that you could even say that sharing is in our genes. Not only that, Seoul’s close-knit communities require less time and cost to achieve sharing. With the development of IT and active use of text messaging services, the distribution and reproduction of information and knowledge and establishment of public consensus is being carried out rapidly. This is accelerating the recovery of relationships as well as mutual trust among citizens and neighbors.
How can we achieve such sharing and coexistence? The answer is participation. The source of true urban innovation is the people, and the sharing of information, knowledge, ideas, and experiences will lay the groundwork for greater participation.
When it comes to sharing, innovation, and citizen participation, transparency is of critical importance. If all processes are not made transparent, they will not be sustainable. And since administration is based on processes, not results, transparency is important here as well. Also, sincere, long-term governance based on cooperation with diverse parties is only possible through a process of sharing.
Keenly aware of this, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will share all processes and results regarding city policies and budgets with the citizens. Next year, a budget of KRW 50 billion will be managed through citizen participation, and the Seoul Plan Citizen Participatory Group will take part in the development of the “Seoul 2030” long-term plan. Moreover, Seoul Citizen Welfare Standard, which will act as a criterion for measuring the quality of citizens’ lives, will be established through a roundtable meeting with 1,000 citizens.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will pursue all of the aforementioned initiatives. However, such innovation and sharing will not be led by the government alone, as Seoul will mainly serve as an intermediary. Many Seoul citizens have already begun to participate in the global sharing movement, moving forward to create a “future of sharing” by changing the direction of our current life.
Today, we are joined by people with remarkable experiences with innovation, sharing, conversion, and urban renewables. You are truly remarkable citizens of Seoul and good colleagues. Thus, I am deeply happy to have shared in setting the direction that Seoul will take in the future. Please join us in spending some valuable time with all participants and enjoy the value of true friendship.
It is my wish that all of our cities contribute to bringing greater happiness to our citizens.
Lastly, I would like to sincerely wish Seoul and all of your cities the best of luck in achieving successful innovation in the future.