Ms. Kajsa Ollongren is the Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam and an Alderperson since 18 June 2014. Ms. Ollongren served as the Secretary-General of the Ministry of General Affairs from 2011 until 2014.   

In your opinion, what might amsterdam’s mantra be, in few words? 

Open, social and sustainable. Working on a future proof city with a high quality of live and where collaboration is key!


Last April 2016, the European Commission awarded the title of European Capital of Innovation («iCapital») 2016 to Amsterdam. Besides its innovative qualities in science and industry Amsterdam distinguishes itself when it comes to bottom-up innovation where intermediary organizations and residents initiate platforms, to come up with and apply self- invented solutions.

Our city was selected by a high-level jury of independent experts based on new initiatives developed since 2012 and on ideas to stimulate the innovation capacity in the future using the dimensions smart, startups, liveability and digital social innovation.

In the city innovation is thereby not only approached as a technological challenge which needs to be managed top-down, but it is approached as a social-societal challenge. A challenge which requires good collaboration between the municipality, knowledge institutions, businesses and industry, and residents, and in which you benefit from the bottom-up initiatives.

The Amsterdam Smart City programme makes a contribution to this movement. Amsterdam Smart City (ASC) is the innovation platform of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. It is a public-private partnership and challenges different stakeholders in the city to suggest and apply innovative ideas & solutions for urban challenges. ASC helps to connect, accelerate and market breakthrough ideas all of which addresses current city challenges. We believe that all resources for a liveable and sustainable city are available, but in order to solve urban challenges we need to create the right consortium of (public and private) organisations, combined with the right (project) approach with a strong emphasis on getting things done. Since it was founded in 2009 over 150 projects have been initiated.

What is smart amsterdam greatest strength?

There are many definitions of a Smart City. Often the focus is on technology, but what makes Amsterdam stand out is our integrated and open approach and facilitating the right ecosystem:

  • Collaboration is key; we focus on public-private collaboration (collaboration between municipalities, knowledge institutions, corporates, start-ups and citizens). This leads more creative, innovative and sustainable solutions.
  • There is a central role for citizens. What is a smart city without smart citizens! They should be involved to co-create solutions and make choices that fit their needs and wishes.
  • Openness is key. Openness of data and openness in goals and ambitions, to enable cooperation between companies of any size, local government, citizens and knowledge institutions. Next to this a Smart City requires the local government to be open and invite and facilitate organisations to join them in solving all the different challenges (solutions can be disruptive).
  • Within creating Smart City solutions, the main challenge is to find the right solution that fits the specific challenge of your street, neighbourhood or city.
Can you be a smart city without a long term and public smart city plan?

Creating a road map for Smart Cities is a complicated matter. A successful approach involves perhaps hundreds of different parties, and the dynamics of such an innovative process are difficult to predict. For this reason, Amsterdam does not really believe in a standard road map for cities, and expects that many concepts will develop in a less organised way than expected. The concept of Smart Cities is like art: context is more important than product. And working on innovation involves constant feedback as an important part of the step-by-step plan: is it technically feasible, is it socially feasible, is it scalable?

How does smart amsterdam connect culture with technology and citizens?

Involving citizens is one of the biggest challenges for every smart city. There is no smart city without smart citizens. You could actually say that there are two types of Smart Cities: the (government driven) systematic introduction of technology – let’s say the Middle Eastern model – versus an approach based on enabling initiatives. We like to think of the latter as the Amsterdam, or European model. How can we allow ideas and initiatives developed by businesses or residents to flourish? It’s all about new solutions, created through collaboration between citizens, businesses and government. Indeed, collaboration is key. Nowadays, ‘bottom-up’ is a popular term. With the government increasingly taking a step back, this is arguably just what’s needed (and perhaps not entirely coincidental). An initiative really gains shape when bottom-up and top-down unite. In a 2011 article, The Economist highlighted the Amsterdam model as such: “Cities will become smarter but in different ways than many people expect. Whereas these top-down projects are struggling, some cities are getting smarter from bottom-up. Amsterdam is considered to be a leader of the pack.” And again this has been confirmed by winning the Icapital award.

How can be a “smart day” (from morning to evening) for a “smart citizen” in amsterdam?

In Amsterdam you can really be involved in the development of Amsterdam as smart city. We are constantly looking for citizens who want to join us in several pilots, on topics such as renovation of homes or energy storage at your home or in your car or getting involved in several hackathons, challenges or labs which address urban challenges. Besides this, citizens can initiate smart projects, just as any other stakeholder in Amsterdam, varying from big companies, to start-ups, to knowledge institutions, to creative citizens with bright ideas. All these innovators can easily connect with each other via the community of Amsterdam Smart City.

A visitor or citizen in Amsterdam will run into several solutions during the day. We are a biking city, more and more goods are transported via the canals or by bike or electrically, we are working on smart moblity solutions, such as using data to predict parking spaces and Amsterdam aims to achieve 1 million solar panels in 2017 in the City.

Besides this Amsterdam is a Sharing City, you can share bikes, cars, working space, tools etc. In the North of Amsterdam a Circular Living Lab is created in the Buiksloterham Neigbourhood and near central station an IoT Living lab has been created with Lora technology enabled Beacons (sensors). Many more examples on the website.

How smart amsterdam is connecting the internal silos?

In our opinion; working on a Smart City means collaborating. It is important to have the right ecosystem in place. This ecosystem goes far beyond the various municipality departments. Companies, especially smart start-ups, knowledge institutions, the municipality and citizens with bright ideas are all part of it. The Amsterdam Smart City programme works closely together with the CTO office of the City, which works cross-departmental and is changing the City of Amsterdam into a facilitating government.

What are the smarter projects of Smart Amsterdam?

Amsterdam Smart City is a public private partnership focused on using the city as an urban laboratory for the use of open data, new mobility solutions and ultimately improved quality of life for all residents and visitors. Various projects where already  mentioned. Some more worth checking:

Amsterdam innovation Arena The Amsterdam Arena football stadium which is a city itself, together with, Microsoft, TNO, KPN, KPMG, Amsterdam Smart City and the municipality of Amsterdam join forces to develop a living lab and a platform for state-of-the-art smart city and smart stadium solutions.

Transform City: TransformCity® is a highly actionable and locally dedicated online urban transformation dashboard. It integrates visual storytelling, data-sharing, co-creation, participatory democracy, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. Now citizens, businesses, organizations and the government can directly exchange information and ideas and collectively plan, make and own their city or neighbourhood.

The Startup in Residence programme run from November 2016 until March 2017, with a final event at the beginning of April. After the first pilot programme in 2015, the City has decided to run the programme again!

In the programme the startups are offered an intensive training programme, as well as the support of professional coaches or mentors. The startups will also be provided with working space and have access to the municipality’s network.

If solutions prove successful, the City of Amsterdam will invest in them as an investor or launching customer and thereby significantly kick-start the startup’s career. The City of Amsterdam seeks to work with (starting) businesses in a transparent manner to translate good ideas into solutions to social issues.

In your opinion, are there different types of smart cities taking into account different political ideologies?

There are various types of smart cities. Every city has its own DNA, history and culture. Therefore we believe every city should develop an own approach that’s fits these elements and the local ecosystem that is needed to develop innovative solutions. In Amsterdam we do not focus on the technology. All needed technology is already there, or will be there tomorrow. Social innovation and the process of innovation are more important. With a great focus on  learning – by – doing,  we learn valuable lessons every day together with all our partners in Amsterdam and beyond who are working on the development of Amsterdam as a smart city.  The challenge here is to guide this development efficiently and sustainably. That’s why Amsterdam Smart City was established.