BCN Ciutat Digital

Barcelona Digital Government: Open, Agile and Participatory

Today we’re presenting a new Government Measure that sets out Barcelona City Council’s Open and Agile Digitalisation Programme. The Programme started in September 2016 and defines the process for a progressive change in the way the city offers digital services to citizens in the years to come.


This measure is based on the Barcelona Digital City Plan passed last October and the new Spanish act 39/2015 on Common Administrative Procedures of the Public Administrations, which establishes that by 2020 digital channels must take priority when providing public services. This plan also takes current European directives into consideration, such as the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 and the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which all public administrations must comply with as from March 2018.


This is a very pioneering measure and puts Barcelona at the forefront in agile, ethical, open, and responsible innovation. It follows new directives based on putting citizens first, establishing the use of agile methods for ICT projects and proposing a focus on technological sovereignty. That means taking back control of data and information generated by digital technologies, and promoting public digital infrastructures based on free and open source software, open standards and open formats. It will also be rolled out in line with an ethical data strategy, where privacy, transparency, collective rights to data and other citizens’ fundamental rights are core values.


The measure has been developed involving various departments from the entire organisation, braking silos and enhancing cooperation. It has also taken into account input from the city’s dynamic ICT sector via a series of co-creation workshops, which have allowed us to integrate the collective intelligence of the city’s ecosystem.


It's precisely the input from the digital ecosystem of the city, which has led us to plan a measure which includes changes geared towards improving the technology procurement, making it more open, ethical and transparent. We think it is essential that the city's tech ecosystem and communities engage participate in shaping this transformation.


Essentially this is a technological change, but it is mainly a change in the way public services are designed and delivered; a change of culture and a structural organizational change.


Barcelona is positioning itself as a reference example in open digital transformation, following other leading experiences at a European and global level. The singularity and relevance of the measure come from the fact that the majority of digital transformation strategies, such as the one initiated by the Government Digital Service in the UK or the Australian government, took place at a state level, while Barcelona is one of the first cities in the world to present an holistic framework at a municipal level.


The measure is to be executed via six guides that define its governance and the rules to be followed and implemented by the City Council, particularly in terms of digital sovereignty and the public procurement of technology, requiring the involvement of all administrative civil servants.


On the other hand, the measure has a practical orientation: 20 flagship digital services are presented here which will help these goals to be achieved and establish new practices. Some of the most relevant digital services that will be transformed include the new citizen support portal, mobile phone services for citizens, the new open city dashboard, the technology purchasing portal, the digital democracy portal and the new digital identity service.


We're building our policies around the need for technological sovereignty, based on free and open software, formats and data, which are technically feasible, economically sustainable and socially fair. All this means specific benefits in the local administration, such as:


  1. An end to the oligarchy of technology providers, avoiding vendor lock-in and long-term dependences. The creation of an open digital marketplace for small-scale providers, generates multiple opportunities in a country where 90% of businesses are small or medium-sized companies. Barcelona has a growing technology sector with around 13,000 companies, which have increased employment by 26.3% since 2016. This measure also allows us to include SMEs in the public procurement process, generating a virtuous cycle where any SME, cooperative and self-employed professional can offer their services under equal conditions.
  2. Review of contract frameworks to ensure data sovereignty. That means having access to the information and know-how generated in the development of public services.
  3. Creation of crucial new capabilities in the public sector to regain control of digital services: through internalisation of staff and a programme to create in-house skills to drive transformation. During this term of office, the Municipal IT Institute (IMI) is to open up 64 new in-house positions for IT specialists (mid to high ranking) via job pools, as part of the current far-reaching process of restructuring and generational replacement.
  4. Increased efficiency in terms of output and costs since 70% of investment in new software development will be free and open source with open licenses. This eliminates many overheads in terms of software licences and also cuts other costs. The freedom to choose providers freely also helps to boost the reinvestment of public money in the local territory, helping local players and the local production network.
  5. Enhanced local collaboration networks between cities and public administrations, which can reuse the solutions developed with open licences and open standards. For instance, during this term of office, Barcelona has pledged to share at least ten open code solutions with other Catalan municipalities.
  6. Enhanced access to data held by the Administration and guarantees for citizens’ basic rights. City data will be open by default with all privacy-protection via the revamped Open Data portal. This will safeguard the security, privacy, information self-determination and digital rights of citizens, as set out in the new EU Data Protection Regulation, which comes into effect in March 2018. We will also release an ambitious ethical code in this field, promoting encryption and data sovereignty for citizens.


Digital transformation and innovation are an on going process with the goal of transforming the City Council to make it more receptive to citizens’ needs, more open, agile, participatory, and transparent. We want the technological revolution we’re experiencing to be serving the people and the common good, and not just benefit the few. This is the main goal of this measure.


Francesca Bria


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