Declaration on joining forces to boost sustainable digital transformation in cities and communities in the EU

We, decision makers at all levels of government together with organisations and networks of cities and communities of all sizes1 , believe that strong cooperation through multi-level governance in the EU and co-creation with citizens are key to our mission of turning our cities and communities into smart and sustainable places where people enjoy living and working. We aim for a cohesive, digital Europe, where every community can enjoy the economic and social benefits of this transformation, while making sure not to leave anyone behind2 . We therefore underline the need for sufficient public and private investment in digital services, technologies, infrastructures and skills to achieve this goal.

At a time when our cities and communities are faced with a growing range of challenges, this declaration marks an important step in the launch of the ‘European way’ of digitally transforming cities and communities. This approach will ensure technological leadership in the EU while respecting European values and diversity, as well as individuals’ digital rights.

Although a number of initiatives3 have led to successful innovative digital solutions4 , their impact on society as a whole remains limited and unevenly distributed across the EU. The extensive uptake and scaling up of these solutions are crucial to help our cities and communities meet their climate targets and reduce their environmental footprint. It will also encourage citizen participation, and help all types of businesses, including SMEs and start-ups, to prosper. It is time for all levels of government in the EU to join forces to scale up digital solutions so that at least 300 million Europeans can enjoy a better quality of life by 20255 . Encouraging the use of commonly agreed digital solutions among regions, cities and communities will help close the digital divide and reduce inequalities for a stronger territorial cohesion.

Digital solutions underpinned by locally-generated data are essential for delivering more informed, innovative and high-quality services to the public and to businesses. These solutions include smart urban mobility, energy efficiency, sustainable housing, digital public services and civic-led governance. If the public is to trust these systems, data must be used responsibly through digital platforms, and its quality, security and privacy must be ensured.

Cooperation across geographical areas and between sectors will boost innovation and allow cities and communities to develop efficient, cost-effective and citizen-centric services. Therefore, the deployment and scaling up of open, interoperable, cross-sector and cross-border platforms as a means to boost digital transformation is at the heart of this declaration. This will help ensure technological sovereignty in the EU and the co-creation of digital solutions that do not lock our cities and communities into specific technologies.

The signatories agree on the following principles6 :

  • a citizen-centric approach;
  • a city-led approach at EU level;
  • the city as a citizen-driven and open innovation ecosystem;
  • ethical and socially responsible access, use, sharing and management of data;
  • technologies as key enablers;
  • interoperable digital platforms based on open standards and technical specifications, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and shared data models.

The signatories commit to developing together sustainable measures to:


  • contribute on a voluntary basis to a joint investment plan to adopt and implement common existing digital solutions on a large scale in the EU7 ;
  • optimise synergies between EU, national, regional and local funds;
  • strengthen investment in local digital transformation from EU funds and programmes, to ensure an inclusive and sustainable Europe;
  • use common public procurement practices to jointly define specifications and reduce the cost of investing in successful digital platforms and related technologies.


  • use a commonly agreed list of standards and technical specifications to achieve interoperability of data, systems, and platforms among cities and communities and suppliers around the world8 ;
  • make key enablers of city digital solutions — including data, infrastructure and services — available to all;
  • use a common marketplace to share data, digital services and solutions among cities and communities.


  • assess the legislative measures needed to provide a common EU framework for cross-sector and cross-border digital solutions to cities and communities (e.g.: eID9 schemes)

Education and capacity building:

  • develop administrative capacities to make the best of digitalisation and to avoid technology or vendor lock-in;
  • develop citizen-centric design approaches as a new competence for policy-making;
  • identify new skills needed by public authorities and businesses, and take action to ensure that people acquire these skills;
  • provide the public with the digital education and skills they need to benefit from smart city solutions and to participate in decision making;
  • develop a culture of having a co-creative, participative and cross-sector approach to designing and implementing smart and sustainable local solutions;
  • facilitate and coordinate activities including knowledge sharing, communication, dissemination and consultancy provision, to scale up successful digital solutions;
  • take advantage of opportunities that can accelerate deployment, such as Digital Innovation Hubs10 .

Monitoring and measuring:

  • help develop and implement a framework, built on existing methodologies11 , to measure and monitor the benefits for citizens, public authorities, businesses and other stakeholders at local level.

A multi-level governance steering board will be set up in the first quarter of 2020 to progress on the above commitments and ensure that they are delivered by 2025. This steering board will join forces and resources and will improve stakeholder dialogue and collaboration in order to boost the sustainable digital transformation of cities and communities.



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Principles for sustainable digital transformation of cities and communities in the EU

Citizen-centric approach

Europe’s digital transformation process is to be developed with, and for, people. Sustainable mobility, energy efficiency, sustainable production, clean air, efficient digital public services, accessible housing and waste management are at the core of smart and sustainable cities and communities, creating quality and qualified jobs and a more equal and inclusive society. Citizens have a key role to play in developing and implementing smart city strategies and solutions. Connecting and engaging with people while enabling them to play a role in policy-making and creating solutions is crucial for successful, smart cities and communities.

A city-led approach at EU level

Strategic cooperation at EU level to scale up digital solutions should benefit from a city-led approach. As the level of government closest to the citizens, local authorities are best placed to understand the needs of the local communities and to coordinate an integrated approach that connects local, regional, national and European businesses.

The city as a citizen-driven and open innovation ecosystem

Cities and communities are ideal real-life, large-scale testing grounds for digital solutions and can act as urban-living labs. Cities can lead stakeholder participation and ensure that the local community is actively involved in creating solutions. Open innovation, through which local stakeholders cooperate and take ownership of the agreed solutions, is vital for a successful digital transformation in the EU. Equally important is that cities and communities in the EU collaborate to make the most of economies of scale to foster investment in innovation.

Technologies as key enablers

Technologies are a means rather than an end in the digital transformation of our cities. The most advanced technologies with the simplest solutions is the ideal combination that will make our cities smart and sustainable.

Ethical and socially responsible access, use, sharing and management of data12

A vast quantity of digital data is produced every day. This data must be used responsibly and its quality, security and privacy ensured by design, to ensure public trust. Practices to be avoided include misuse of data — including unauthorised data sharing, reselling customer data, and biased algorithms that reinforce social inequalities. Digital data must be used in the public interest to improve decision making and public services. Local governments must support practices and initiatives that ensure a better use and management of data, including the once-only and privacy-by-design principles, algorithm transparency and the use of unbiased algorithms to improve quality of life and digital rights in cities and communities.

Interoperable digital platforms with open standards, APIs and shared data models

Urban platforms are the 'operating systems' of the services provided by smart cities. They are necessary for handling the growing range of stakeholders and data across various sectors. Interoperable urban platforms that promote open standards, APIs and shared data models are crucial for removing barriers such as vendor lock-in and non-interoperable proprietary protocols. Interoperable urban platforms are essential for developing and putting in place innovative and cost-effective solutions across the EU, since they create open and interoperable ecosystems and can be extended to serve as spaces for creative experimentation.

Existing successful digital solutions

EU-funded and local pilots as well as supporting actions and partnerships have produced standards, mechanisms, services, guidelines and tools that enable the interoperability of urban platforms, with a strong local impact and significant EU added value. Examples are listed below.

A ‘Consolidated Report of Technical Specifications’ has been prepared as a working document13 to support the action plan for the declaration.

  • Smart Appliance/Anything REFerence (SAREF)14 : The SAREF ontology, an ETSI/OneM2M standard, is a shared model of consensus that helps match existing assets, such as standards, protocols, and data models. It consists of base ontology and extensions for the relevant sectors, including one for cities (SAREF4CITY). A combined city solution based on SAREF and NGSI-LD has been successfully piloted in the SynchroniCity project.
  • OASC Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms (MIMs)15 : The MIMs are universal tools for achieving interoperability of data, systems and services between cities and suppliers. Implementation can be different, as long as crucial interoperability points in any given technical architecture use the same interoperability mechanisms. They are vendor-neutral and technology-agnostic, meaning that anybody can use them and integrate them into existing systems and services.
  • Urban Platforms: Open standards and open source components such as the EIP-SCC DIN SPEC 91357 Reference Architecture Model Open Urban Platform16 developed in collaboration with the EU-funded project 'Espresso'17 , the ETSI OneM2M reference library18 , the SynchroniCity reference architecture19 and the FIWARE reference architecture20 help cities and communities remain agile and avoid vendor lock-in.
  • The Digital Cities Challenge methodology toolbox: The Digital Cities Challenge self-assessment tool21 determines cities’ digital performance level, based on existing digital transformation processes and progress along eight dimensions of digital development. The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)22 allow the monitoring of the targeted and actual impact of the actions and initiatives on the local economy, businesses and citizens. In addition, the City Digital Transformation handbook23 provides cities with concrete methodology on how to develop an effective digital transformation strategy, based on existing best practices, such as the blueprint24 for cities and regions as launch pads for digital transformation.
  • Mobility Data Portal (MDP)25 : The MDP collects and connects mobility data in a multimodal dataset and makes it available through a standardised interface and under a public-private contractual arrangement. It operates as a unique access point to the city’s multimodal data and services.
  • Humble Lamppost26 : Aiming to install 10 million smart lampposts in order to save energy and costs in cities across the EU and accelerate their digitalisation, the Humble Lamppost project serves as an example of joint procurement and cooperation among the EIP-SCC action cluster on integrated infrastructures and processes.
  • The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Building Blocks27 : The CEF programme has developed a set of generic and reusable Digital Service Infrastructures, also known as building blocks. Currently, there are eight building blocks: (i) big data test infrastructure; (ii) context broker; (iii) archiving; (iv) eDelivery; (v) eID; (vi) eInvoicing; (vii) eSignature; and (viii) eTranslation. The building blocks can be combined and used in projects in any policy area at European, national or local level.
  • SynchroniCity catalogue28 : As one of the EU-funded Internet of Things (IoT) European large-scale pilots29 , SynchroniCity has developed jointly with cities, industry, and SMEs a catalogue of scalable IoT and artificial intelligence-enabled services for cities and communities across sectors.
  • OrganiCity playbook30 : The EU-funded project OrganiCity has provided a toolkit to kick-start a citizen-centric co-creation of digital, data-driven solutions in cities and communities.
  • CITYKeys Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)31 : With the help of cities in the EIP‑SCC, this project has developed and validated local key KPIs and data collection procedures for common and transparent monitoring and to be able to compare smart city solutions across European cities.
  • Smart City guidance package32 : This guide helps local governments plan and manage smart city projects. While making available existing knowledge, experiences and findings, the guide provides insight into obstacles frequently encountered during implementation and explores what it takes to scale up and replicate successful initiatives.