Smart data use wins Zwolle Smartest Inner City award

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
The winners of the annual Smartest Inner City Awards were announced at the Smart Data City Congress in Utrecht on 3 October 2016. In the category Smartest Vision 2016, Zwolle was declared this year’s winner. According to the jury report, the city stood out with its facts-based operations approach and its collaborative team spirit. Initiator Hans Nouwens is very enthusiastic about the awards. During the event, CBS programme director Robert Hermans took the opportunity to explain the recent initiative of CBS and the World Council on City Data (WCCD) to start the certification process of Dutch cities according to global ISO standards.

Cities and residents working together

As Nouwens explains, municpalities that successfully use smart data to improve their inner cities have three things in common: ‘First, they have all appointed a senior person in the organisation to lead the project. Secondly, they have made financial resources available. And thirdly, how they use smart data is already embedded in the organisation. Winning city Zwolle performs well on all three aspects, without labelling itself a smart city. Zwolle works together with schools and colleges, for example, organising hackathons whose winners are guaranteed a job. Quite exceptional!’ Nouwens also applauds city councillor Brink of Zwolle, who has been applying the concept of facts-based policy for quite some time now.

Digitally smart residents

Nijmegen is another good example of the benefits of collaboration between the city and its residents. Nijmegen won the award in the category Smartest Project 2016 with its Smart Emissions Project. ‘This project tests whether sensor data on noise and air quality from a citizens’ monitoring network can provide insights at local and city level. These data are used to supplement professional data available from RIVM’s national network (Landelijk Meetnet Luchtkwaliteit).’ Nouwens praises residents in several cities for being so remarkably ‘with it’ in the area of digital knowhow. ‘Nijmegen is a good example of this, making excellent use of its digitally smart residents. Not all cities know how to do this.’

‘Nijmegen makes excellent use of digitally smart residents, not all cities know how to do this' 


Smart Data City is a network organisation that invests in improving cities through technological knowledge, user experiences, interaction and change management. In 2015 the organisation presented its first Smartest Dutch Inner City Award. The focus of that award was on the best plan by inner cities for using new technologies and communication means to make a stay in the city more agreeable. That year’s winner was Utrecht.

Smart City Self-Assessment

The aim of the second Smartest Dutch Inner City Awards was the same, but this time the cities were not judged on the basis of their plans, but on the basis of indicators. Nouwens: ‘The initiatives were evaluated by substantive specialists and judged by experts, using urban indicators. These reflect the WCCD indicators and are based on figures from CBS, RIVM and the Land Registry. The cities also had to conduct a Smart City Self-Assessment, answering questions about leadership, stakeholders, research methods, maturity, etc. The results reflect the current state of affairs, and the progress towards their future target.’


According to Nouwens, analysis of the assessment results reveals that many cities encounter problems with the acquisition policy for innovation. ‘This is done through tenders and often takes two to three years. It makes you wonder whether we can then still call this innovation.’ Another issue is that municipalities often have large quantities of available data but lack the right ICT infrastructure and sometimes the expertise to analyse the data in-house. ‘Some cities simply cannot do it alone. Joining a CBS Urban Data Centre could be a great incentive to work on this together.’

Eppo Bruins is a Member of Parliament for the Christen Unie party and chaired the jury for the Smart Data City’s Smartest Inner City Awards 2016. Looking back at the competition, he is very satisfied with the results. ‘I am encouraged by the fact that so many city councillors and their staff showed so much enthusiasm for this topic. This is a good thing, because we have seen that it takes an active pioneer to put a smart inner city on the map. But it is also fragile: what happens if this pioneer leaves the organisation, or when the reserved budget has been spent? It turns out to be very difficult to embed smart city activities properly in municipal policy, organisation and implementation.’

CBS Urban Data Centre

Robert Hermans is the CBS programme director for Urban Data Centres – partnerships between CBS and cities within which CBS knowhow concerning data infrastructure, data processing and confidentiality can be combined with municipal ambitions. ‘The first CBS Urban Data Centre was opened on 22 September 2016 in Eindhoven, the second will be opened in Heerlen on 28 November. Furthermore CBS is working together with the World Council on City Data (WCCD). This is the world leader in standardised city indicators and specialises in certifying cities in quality of life, sustainability and smart data. During the Smartest Inner City event, CBS invited municipalities to discuss the possibilities of setting up their own CBS Urban Data Centre and obtaining certification by collaborating with WCCD.


The certification process for the municipality of Eindhoven has now begun. ‘The opening of CBS Urban Data Centre/Heerlen on 28 November 2016 will include the official signing of a partnership agreement between CBS and WCCD. The programme also includes the presentation of the official ISO 37120 Certificate to Eindhoven and Heerlen by Patricia McCarney, president of WCCD. ’ Hermans adds that other municipalities are showing a great deal of interest in setting up a CBS Urban Data Centre and complying with all requirements for certification. ‘We have already been invited by a number of city councils to come and discuss this.’