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Open Password – Mittwoch, den 5. Dezember 2018



Agnes Mainka – Smart Informtionas Cities – Wolfgang G. Stock – Uni Düsseldorf – TK-Unternehmen – IT-Infrastruktur – Wissenschaftsparks – Universitätscluster – Face-to-Face-Interaktionen – Digitale Bibliotheken – Informationskompetenz – Maker Spaces – Stadtentwicklung – e-government – Free Flow of Information – Ostasien – Wissensgesellschaft – Finanzsektor 

Agnes Mainka:
Smart Informational Cities
im Vergleich (1) 

Während die Zahl smarter Städte zunimmt,
geht der “Free Flow of Information”

weltweit zurück

Neu erschienen: Agnes Mainka, Samrt World Cities in the 21st Century, Reihe: Knolwledge in Information Science (Editor-in-chief: Wolfgang G. Stock), De Gruyter Saur, Berlin/Boston 2018. Die Informationswissenschaftlerin Dr. Agnes Mainka arbeitet an der Heinrich-Heine-Universität in Düsseldorf.

In dem Buch werden 31 Städte weltweit, darunter Berlin und München, miteinander verglichen und auf der Basis harter Daten sowie Experteninterviews Merkmale prototypischer Städte der Wissensgesellschaft abgeleitet sowie Beispiele für Best Practice gefunden. Das geschieht in der Weise, dass Hypothesen formuliert und vorläufig bestätigt oder reformuliert bzw. zurückgewiesen werden. Die Hypothesen lauten im Einzelnen (in Klammern eventuell die Ergebnisse der Prüfung):

  • “Informational world cities are hubs for companies with infornation market activities, e.g. telecommunication companies.” (Diskussion: Bedeutung der Telekomminkation geht zurück, “technology-driven companies and software products” sind im Kommen.).
  • “The ICT infrstructure in an information world city is more important than automatic traffic infrastructure.” (Diese These war zu reformulieren: “The maturity of ICT and sustainability are highly correlated in an informational world city.”)
  • “Science parks or university clusters that cooparate with knowledge-intensive companies are important in an informational world city.”
  • “An informational world city needs to be a creative city.”
  • “Physical space for face-to-face interaction is important for an informational world city.”
  • “A fully developed content infrastructure, e.g. supported by digital libraries, is a characteristic feature of an informational world city” (zu reformulieren: “The knowledge socity needs advanced information literacy as well as local information providers (e.g. open data portals).”
  • “Libraries are important in an informational world city as a physical place for face-to-face communiction and interaction” (Mainka schließt ihre Erörterungen dazu: “Indeed, the public library is important a face-to-face space for the community, which is why the community should be able to interact and participate to the future of this space.”)
  • “Political willingness is important to establish an informational world city especially according to knowledge economy activities.” (Keine notwendige Bedingung, kann aber nützlich sein.)
  • “An informational world city is characterized by e-governemnt (including e-geovernment, e.-participation, e-democracy.” (Empirisch nicht bestätigt.)
  • “A free flow of all kinds of information (including mass media information) is an important characteristiv of an informationals world city.” (Dazu Mainka: “The investagated cities located in China, Singapore, Malaysia or the UAE hav nor or very little freedom of information, Informational ciies in “Western” countries tend to have a higher degree of freedom of information than others, but there is a global decline in the free flow of information that should alarm the knowledge society.”)
  • “An informational world city has to be a financial hub with a lot of banks and insurance companies.” (Nein, siehe Gegenbeispiele, zum Beispiel Boston).
  • “An informational city is supposed to be a global city (“world city”). (Was heißt “Global City”? These sich aber so wohl nicht aufrechterhalten.)

Die Erörterung der Thesen wird im Folgenden wiedergegeben.


Agnes Mainka:
Smart Informational Cities
im Vergleich (2)

Smarte Städte in Ostasien: Wirtschaftlicher Aufstieg ohne “westliche Werte”

Mit “Maker Spaces” und “Information Literacy” ein Platz der Bibliotheken
in der Wissensgesellschaft

Conclusion. The present work was a first attempt to investigate the influence of political willingness, infrastructures, and the status as a world city on the state and development of prototypical cities of the knowledge society. The underlying theories on cities of the 21st century have been developed throughout the last decades, but a global comparison of real cities is missing. Thus, for example, the emergence of the creative class is primarily demonstrated in the United States and so far has not been found for cities in other countries (Murugadas, Vieten, Nikolic, Fietkiewicz, & Stock, 2015). Other case studies, such as for instance the correlation of the “Human Development Index” and the “ICT Development Index”, have shown that ICT is growing in importance globally (Stock, 2011). Even though this data was gathered on the national level and not on the city level, it demonstrates that a higher human development positively affects the maturity of the ICT infrastructure and vice versa. But what does this mean for our cities in a global economy? As there are different definitions of prototypical cities of the knowledge society, and as indices on the city level are not available on a global scale, the approach in this work has been to identify the “new field” of real world examples of informational world cities. Hence, the attempt was not to only focus on the increase of ICT, as many previous case study projects of smart cities have, but also on the recent development of cities with regard to governmental, human, and economic interaction.

In this chapter, I will summarize the main findings of each hypothesis and reveal whether they were supported by the data or whether they have to be reconsidered based on the expert interviews. Finally, the identified characteristics in a typical informational world city will be summarized.




The main infrastructures of an informational world city are digital and cognitive. The digital refers to investigations concerning the information and communication technology (ICT). Its use and access are highly correlated with a high level of human development on the national level (Stock, 2011). That is why all of the investigated cities are located in a high or very high human development environment and it can be assumed that the underlying ICT infrastructure is advanced. Furthermore, as a global hub, an informational world city adds value to the economic market of the ICT sector. The cognitive infrastructure is used by researchers to refer to the knowledge and creative city (Ergazakis, Metaxiotis, & Psarras, 2004; Florida, 2002; Landry, 2008). As described in the literature review, it is difficult to separate both city types, as they have many overlapping indicators. Thus, the infrastructure was investigated according to knowledge and creative institutions. In total, seven hypotheses were investigated as part of the digital, knowledge, or creative city. While the hypotheses could not be shown as valid for each of the 31 cities, the results were able to provide some best practice examples.

Looking at the first hypothesis (H1), “Informational world cities are hubs for companies with information market activities, e.g. telecommunication companies,” it can be agreed that information market activities play an important role in the majority of the investigated cities. However, the market is changing from being a hub of telecommunication and hardware production, as Helsinki has been in the past due to the former success of Nokia, towards increasing numbers of technology-driven corporations and software products. Technology hubs are for example the San Francisco Bay Area, the Taipei Region, and the Seoul Region. Telecommunication hubs are Tokyo, Beijing, and Dallas. Furthermore, cultural and other institutions located in ICT hubs may profit from synergy effects. In addition, universities are needed to educate the knowledge workforce. Interestingly, most experts associate the ICT market with entrepreneurship and tech startups. However, a job-growth impact has so far only been demonstrated for North American cities and not on a global level (Murugadas et al., 2015). Cities ranked as the most entrepreneurship-friendly are Silicon Valley, New York, London, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, all of which can be interpreted as entrepreneur ICT hubs. Finally, due to the increasing possibilities for how information and technology can be used it can be assumed that an informational world city is an ICT-related hub at least with reference to tech startups.

Hence, the second hypothesis (H2), “The ICT infrastructure in an informational world city is more important than automotive traffic infrastructure,” was very provocative since the physical space in a city is still of high importance. Nevertheless, on the city level, an independent measuring of the ICT maturity is missing. Some indicators are only useful in dense areas, such as access to, quality of, and use of Wi-Fi. And it should be emphasized that the shrinking importance of cars in the city is a natural result of population density and not directly caused or amplified by advanced ICT. But as people are going to use other modes of mobility than a car, ICT can make them more comfortable, e.g. through mobile payment. Finally, fewer cars result in a more sustainable city. Because of that, the hypothesis has to be reformulated as follows: “The maturity of ICT and sustainability are highly correlated in an informational world city.”

The third hypothesis (H3) “Science parks or university clusters that cooperate with knowledge-intensive companies are important in an informational world city,” is acknowledged as being the heart of the knowledge society. Hence, all the best practice examples of ICT hubs as well as most innovative cities are home to “elite universities.” Science parks and clusters need collaboration with top quality universities. Best practice examples are Cambridge in the Boston Area and Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both are agglomerations of universities and knowledge-intensive companies, demonstrating the success of physical concentration. Furthermore, both cities have a flourishing startup scene and are highly innovative. In conclusion, cities with highly ranked universities are more likely to be a knowledge and/or innovation hub.

With regard to the fourth hypothesis (H4), “An informational world city needs to be a creative city,” a mixture of the traditional and modern definitions was discussed. Hence, the term creativity was widened from culture and arts to include technology and innovation. Creative institutions (museums, galleries, etc.) are not good indicators to identify a creative city, whereas the innovation output can be measured by the number of patents granted. By the pure number of patents, Seoul is the leading city, while per capita, San Francisco and Boston have the highest numbers in 2012. Furthermore, the creative economy affects the digital economy, for example by online sales of cultural goods. A creative city also allows a free flow of people. This is measured by the city’s tolerance. Most tolerant in the US are San Francisco and Los Angeles (among the 5 US cities investigated in the work at hand). Creativity also needs space: “Creative milieus” for artists, and “milieus of innovation” for the technology talents and entrepreneurs. Thus, being a creative city is at the very least an advantage, with San Francisco again being one of the leading best practice examples. Finally, out of all creative city aspects, the most important characteristic is space for and flow of the creative class.

The role of physical space was investigated in the fifth hypothesis (H5), “Physical space for face-to-face interaction is important for an informational world city.” Two main aspects stood out: First, the city should have an architecture that encourages face-to-face meeting, e.g. by a “coffee house culture” as it is known in Vienna or Paris. Second, coworking spaces are growing in importance in an increasingly digitized world. Entrepreneurs and startups profit from tacit knowledge exchange and an open innovation process, just like other businesses and corporation. However, most cities offer only commercial places such as cafés, bars or restaurants, and only little free community space. To positively impact creativity, it is important to assemble a diverse mix of people and work across different disciplines. Libraries often offer this space and the necessary infrastructure through Wi-Fi hotspots. On a per capita basis Amsterdam, San Francisco, and Boston have the most coworking space available – and thus spaces for people to meet face-to-face.

The public library serves a special function in an informational world city. This is expressed in the sixth hypothesis (H6), “A fully developed content infrastructure, e.g. supported by digital libraries, is a characteristic feature of an informational world city.” Access to specialized databases needs to be adjusted to what is important to the general public. Relevant are, for example, instructions on how to use digital content, assistance in information retrieval, and digital equipment and Wi-Fi connectivity at all branches. As a digital content provider, the library can help the municipality to open and digitize data. Based on an investigation of the offered digital services, the cities New York, San Francisco, and Toronto are best practice examples. Finally, a fully developed content infrastructure is not of great importance. The hypothesis needs to be reformulated into the following: “The knowledge society needs advanced information literacy as well as local information providers (e.g. open data portals).”

As the final part of the investigation of infrastructures, the libraries’ importance as physical space was explored with H7, “Libraries are important in an informational world city as a physical place for face-to-face communication and interaction.” That physical space for face-to-face communication is needed in an informational world city was already revealed by H5, but it is not a common standard in informational cities that libraries are those places. However, library space must adjust to the community’s demands. In Beijing the working spaces and in Shenzhen the bookstores are crowded. In Stockholm space for a variety of activities is given instead. Interestingly, maker spaces add a new dimension to the existing spaces in libraries. Best practice examples of physical library spaces can be found in Montréal, Singapore, and Shenzhen. However, interesting maker spaces have also been introduced in Chicago and Toronto, allowing citizens to create and not merely consume. In some cases, they can also be invited to the public library to be part of the libraries’ program as well as to participate in the decision-making regarding future developments. Indeed, the public library is important as face-to-face space for the community, which is why the community should be able to interact and participate in the future of this space.


Political Will


The political will of an informational world city refers to the governmental plans for and energy in pushing forward the knowledge-based urban development. With respect to the development of the ICT infrastructure, e-services can also be made available on the municipal level. Hence, through e-participation and e-democracy, the city can reach the level of e-governance or even become an open government, if it is able to take charge in implementing open innovation processes. Finally, transparency was identified as key to a trustworthy government. However, on a global scale, the free flow of information is shrinking.

Concerning H8, “Political willingness is important to establish an informational world city especially according to knowledge economy activities”, the investigation indicated that it is not a necessary requirement. What government can do is to boost the informational city development through funding and incentives. Particularly, incentives to attract the information and knowledge economy are of advantage, e.g. Twitter in San Francisco, Ubisoft in Montréal, or the special economic zones in Dubai and several Chinese cities. Political action in an informational world city can both help and hurt. In Berlin, for example, the startup evolution was a bottom-up development. This is comparable to the creative milieus that have emerged in free spaces. Today, milieus of innovation follow this trend. For instance, Shenzhen’s evolution into a Silicon Valley of Hardware was only possible because the government did not interfere. Cities that are acknowledged as having a strong political will towards a knowledge-based urban development are Barcelona, Boston, Melbourne, Montréal, Seoul, Shenzhen, Singapore, Tokyo, Vancouver and Vienna.

A further part of the political will is the integration of e-governance, as investigated by H9, “An informational world city is characterized by e-governance (including e-government, e-participation, e-democracy).” However, most of the cities do not perform as the interviewed experts would like to see. There are still many fears that need to be faced before e-governance can be realized on the municipal level, such as high costs and the security and reliability of the data. However, on the national level, many governments have introduced online identification that can be used to verify government-to-citizen or government-to-business transactions, e.g. SingPass in Singapore. This is a major step forward in the realm of e-services, but still a long way from true open government. Participatory approaches in decision-making processes need engaged citizens as well as an open-minded administration. Ultimately, e-governance could become a characteristic feature of an informational world city, but is currently not yet fully available.

Regarding the political will and e-services, a hypothesis on freedom of information was evaluated, namely H10, “A free flow of all kinds of information (inclusive mass media information) is an important characteristic of an informational world city.” Freedom of information can be investigated on the one hand by the political will as evidenced by the laws guaranteeing freedom of information and freedom of expression, and on the other hand by political actions represented through the implementation of open data portals. However, a freedom of information law by itself does not prevent corruption, as the example of Montréal demonstrates. Similarly, mere access to mass media must not be confused with a free flow of information, since self-censorship is growing. Independent publishers are also becoming increasingly rare, even though they are vital within a knowledge society, for instance to foster critical thinking. In conclusion, the investigated cities located in China, Singapore, Malaysia, or the UAE have no or very little freedom of information. Informational cities in “Western” countries tend to have a higher degree of freedom of information than others, but there is a global decline in the free flow of information that should alarm the knowledge society.


World City


Research on world cities as well as on informational cities deals with the flows of information, capital, and power. Capital and power are related to financial hubs and financial flows, as measured by multinational financial institutions, stock exchanges, and the GDP (Taylor, 2004). Furthermore, the cityness as an aspect of urbanity and inter-city flows was investigated in the case study of the 31 informational world cities.

Looking at H11, “An informational world city has to be a financial hub with a lot of banks and insurance companies,” the interviewed experts did not agree. The overall economic success is much more important than the financial sector (measured by the stock exchange and GDP). Many cities like New York, London, Paris, San Francisco, or Boston can be found in the list of the top 20 global cities as well as in the list of the top 20 venture capital cities. Finance and insurance are not creative and therefore do not add value to the informational world city, whereas the FinTech sector may close the gap between the world city and informational city. Global hubs combining both city types are New York, London, and Paris. Interestingly, Boston is no global hub of finance and is not among the top stock exchanges, but it is the city with the highest GDP per capita and one of the top global university hubs. Being successful therefore does not seem to depend on being a global financial hub, at least in the case of Boston.

inally, concerning H12, “An informational city is supposed to be a global city (‘world city’),” it could not be determined whether small or medium size cities are unable to be informational cities. For some experts, it is more important to be a hub for research and development. However, those cities generally do not have the kind of infrastructure which attracts multinational corporations, which in turn eventually attract the talents. But as revealed by Boston, this does not seem to be a universal rule, as the city is the hub for R&D of many multinational corporations, but not their headquarters. Therefore, these institutions as well as the elite universities attract talents to graduate and to work there. In a world of talent circulation, cities become “talent hubs” independent of their size but characterized by their openness. Thus, the hypotheses referring to world city research need to be adjusted to questioning the openness of informational cities towards talents and innovation. However, this is just true for cities in “Western” countries, as, surprisingly, cities in Asia are growing in their GDP per year but not in their openness for talents or information. Hence, based on the measurement of power, knowledge, and innovation flows, they are able to compete or even lead the top cities, as Seoul does when it comes to the total number of patents granted per year.


The typical informational world city


Merging the ideas described above, we are able to draw the prototypical informational world city as follows:

An informational world city is by definition ubiquitously connected and enables a sustainable lifestyle. ICT-related jobs are easy to find there. These jobs will not be IT hardware manufacturing jobs, but rather may be related to culture, health, finance or any other discipline that can enhance its efficiency and possibilities through ICT. Furthermore, it is easy to start one’s own tech-related business, as it is supported by the government and will enjoy many benefits and incentives. And if that does not work out, the multinational corporations in the special economic zones are also on the lookout for creative talents.

Whenever needed, highly educated people can be found for a coffee break in any of the countless restaurants or at your favorite coworking space. To share their knowledge with others, entrepreneurs join the library community for a hack event or demonstrate their 3D design skills in an open seminar. The library promotes information literacy skills and keeps users up to date on social and environmental topics. Every now and then space can be found that were redesigned for different kind of activities, such as art, performing or coding workshops.

In terms of the world city status, it becomes less important to be a hub of the financial sector. To make investments and the ability to apply for venture capital will replace traditional finance institutions. However, both are located where they are able to access an enhanced ICT infrastructure and additionally may profit from the synergies with entrepreneurs of the FinTech sector.

Everyone is connected everywhere and anytime. The taxes and bus tickets are paid via mobile application and the news users read consists of pre-filtered pro-government information. Access is not restricted, but limited. In addition, language barriers make it difficult to retrieve the worldwide knowledge. Talent inflow is only observed in predominately English-speaking regions. For reliable full content data, access to the university library is needed, which is often limited to students and faculty. Citizen engagement in political decision processes to fight to realize the freedom of information for all increases, but tweets to the administration often go unanswered – the local government is too busy due to the digitization processes in each department. Ultimately, being one of the most successful cities e.g. in finance, innovation, or education is by definition reserved for a select few. The majority will remain regional hubs and not become command and control destinations.

These findings are based on the investigated case studies. To assemble more evidence about the city development in the 21st century, interdisciplinary approaches as in the present work and further empirical and statistical data are needed. Finally, the identified characteristics based on the literature review and modified according to the expert interviews will contribute to an increased understanding of cities’ development, growth, and success in the 21st century. Hence, we are now able to benchmark informational cities on a global scale with regard to their political willingness, infrastructures, and cityness. In the future, research projects at the Department of Information Science of Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf will continue to investigate the selected 31 informational world cities, especially with respect to the indicators of the labor market, corporate structure, and weak location factors. Considering the increase of the Internet of Things, open innovation, and sharing industry, it will be interesting to see how the cities will develop in the following years.




Ergazakis, K., Metaxiotis, K., & Psarras, J. (2004). Towards knowledge cities: Conceptual analysis and success stories. Journal of Knowledge Management, 8(5), 5–15.

Florida, R. L. (2002). The rise of the creative class: And how it’s transforming work, leisure, community and everyday life. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Landry, C. (2008). The creative city: A toolkit for urban innovators (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Earthscan Publications.

Murugadas, D., Vieten, S., Nikolic, J., Fietkiewicz, K. J., & Stock, W. G. (2015). Creativity and entrepreneurship in informational metropolitan regions. Journal of Economic and Social Development, 2(1), 14–24. Retrieved from

Stock, W. G. (2011). Informational cities: Analysis and construction of cities in the knowledge society. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(5), 963–986.

Taylor, P. J. (2004). World city network: A global urban analysis. London, UK: Routledge.

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