In November 4th 2022, the first workshop of a joint-research project between the Gemeente Helmond and the Erasmus University Rotterdam was held in Helmond. The project, led by Dr. Negar Noori and Prof. Martin de Jong, aims to provide a better understanding of the concept of inclusion and to identify its criteria in the smart city discourse. The final goal is to co-create Helmond’s inclusive smart (digital) city roadmap including guidelines for developing an action plan.
In June 2022, Erasmus University of Rotterdam (EUR) and Gemeente Helmond signed a collaboration agreement for a joint-research project on a digital inclusion framework for the city of Helmond.
The first phase of the project will provide new insights on the concept of digital inclusion, how policy makers tackle its challenges, the citizens’ concerns related to digitization and inclusion, and the provision of digital inclusion initiatives. The complexity of studying digital inclusion is tackled through a participatory research strategy. The framework is first built on theories and then validated through workshops and panel discussions with citizen whose insights will then be incorporated. This strategy enables us to unpick the complexity of digital inclusion and assist the city of Helmond to start its digital inclusion initiatives.
On November 4th, 2022, the first workshop of the project was held for policymakers in Helmond. Negar Noori and Martin de Jong from EUR, and Lousine Kanasyan, Daniel de Klein and FransJozef van Poppel from Gemeente Helmond collaborated with Dr. Filippos Zisopoulos (Researcher at EUR) and Dr. Shiwei Chen (Researcher at EUR) in the organization of the workshop. In this workshop they presented the initial framework of digital inclusion identifying the various elements and sub-elements of the concept and the groups at risk of being marginalized. With a participatory policy making approach, the goal of this workshop was to discuss the initial framework and to integrate policy makers’ insights into the theoretical framework. For this purpose, the concepts inherent in digital inclusion were described and clarified and the social groups at the risk of being marginalized were introduced. This was followed by an evaluation of the framework using a multi-objective multi-stakeholder decision making method. This participatory evaluation process aids the strategic decision making by considering multiple viewpoints and giving clarity on influencing factors and desired and undesired options and outcomes. The participants ranked the elements of the digital inclusion framework in terms of their relative importance and were asked which elements might still be missing. They also voted on the relevant digital inclusion aspects for each social group at risk of marginalization. Digital security and digital inclusive design were recognized as the most crucial elements of the digital inclusion framework.
To involve other key stakeholders in the participatory policy making process, the framework will be discussed in another workshop with private sectors involved in the digitization programs. Also, a citizen survey will be conducted to include citizens’ insights into the framework. Then the theoretical framework will be revised by integrating the results from the workshops and the survey. Eventually, several examples of good practices will be studied and will serve to formulate the policies and translating them into actions, programs and initiatives.