Smart Cities
Smart City Festival 2020

Innovation, Resilience and Sustainability in times of Covid-19
SCF20 logo
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Can smart solutions, digital transformation processes and adaptive innovation prepare societies for global crises like COVID-19 and beyond? This essential question guided the 4th international SMART CITY FESTIVAL 2020 | SCF20, from October 22-23.

The coronavirus outbreak has been aided by the fact that the world is better connected than ever. But increasing technological connectivity may also help society fight this pandemic by mitigating the effects of the outbreak. The festival aims to understand the corona crisis as an opportunity, as a catalyst for innovation.

Smarter cities and rural areas show more success in managing the current COVID-19 pandemic than others, also in the Western Balkans region. Propper innovation processes decisively strengthen resilience, further contributing to the sustainability of a multitude of areas. But how could countries in the region and Europe become more resilient societies through smart technology implementation, beyond originating smart cities scenarios? The 4th festival was dedicated to contributing to addressing.  

Responding to the transforming power of the pandemic, the concept of SCF20 had to be reimagined as well. The traditional conference and expo were transformed into a bilingual hybrid live-stream event, resembling a modern TV-production. The Festival was moderated by Milan Saric, TV-anchor and producer of news TV-channel N1, the exclusive CNN affiliate in the region.

The live-streamed event was produced via studio locations in Pristina, Sarajevo and Belgrade, with video-link-connections to e.g. Vienna, Brussels, or Mexico City. As a consequence, more citizens, stakeholders and decision-makers were able to join the festival this year as viewers. In the process, due to its unparalleled production value, high-quality content and increased accessibility, the 2020 Festival set the new bar for online events for this year.    

SCF20 was opened by the Michael Roick, FNF Project Director for the Western Balkans, H.E. Thomas Schieb, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Serbia, Prof. Dr Zoran Radojičić Mayor of the City of Belgrade and Milan Trivić, Deputy mayor of the City of Sarajevo.

Almost 1800 viewers joined the festival live, directly via the portal. More watched streams in English and BHS on Facebook or 3rd party sited, which have embedded one of the two languages of the stream. All panels, talks or keynotes are publically available, further increasing the outreach of the festival. Also, an online campaign and a MediaTek will further increase the signal-to-noise-ratio of the event.  


The main keynotes and panels were:

Keynote Tristan Horx

„Future Scenarios for the Post Corona World“

After the Corona crisis, many things will no longer be as they once were. Futurology has described possible scenarios in which direction the world could change: Will recurring shutdowns and thus isolation become the normality of daily life? Will permanent border closures and a focus on national interests determine the future? Or will a resilient and adaptive society emerge, that knows how to deal productively with crises?

Keynote Prof. Dr Claus Dierksmeier

„Freedom and Open Society in Times of Corona“

In the course of the pandemic, central basic rights such as freedom of demonstration, freedom of movement and freedom of trade were and are subject to considerable restrictions. In some countries, emergency decrees were issued and many citizens fear authoritarian rule even after the crisis. How can these developments be classified against the background of liberal values? The first crucial question is from which understanding of freedom one evaluates all this.

Keynote Victoria Boeck

„Smart City Development in Recent Times“

The question of how Open Data can change cities and how administrations can use technology and data to improve processes and services has become increasingly urgent in recent months. The Corona crisis has triggered a comprehensive change process that achieves in a short time what would have taken years under normal circumstances: operational efficiencies become more efficient and supply chains more sustainable. What is currently taking place, it is said, is a fast-paced digitalization process.

„Smart Solutions during the Pandemic – Meeting the Change Makers“

The Corona crisis has raised public awareness of the importance of smart city solutions and strategies today and for the future. On the one hand, the pandemic has highlighted the deficits in urban and rural services of general interest. On the other hand, the pressure to innovate has increased enormously and municipal digitization has received a huge boost. Decision-makers contribute their experience and discuss the status and development of municipal and rural services. What is the significance of inter-municipal cooperation and what role do innovations and digitization strategies play?


„What does Resilience mean? Using the Opportunities of the Crisis“

The political, economic and social systems of the future must become more robust, more variable, more flexible, more sustainable and less susceptible to disruption, analyses, debates and talk shows have been saying for months. But what does that mean in concrete terms? What do resilience and sustainability mean in terms of the future of urban-rural development? Experts from various fields and policy areas discuss possibilities, strategies and solutions to take advantage of the opportunities of the crisis.

„Smart Beyond Cities – Digital Ecosystems I Urban/Rural International“

There are already promising approaches and outstanding examples in the search for sustainable and robust solutions for crisis-proof interaction: for example, in the area of digital administration services with centralized customer management for citizens and companies or in the fields of mobility and health. And that raises the question: Which international best-practice examples could be helpful as blueprints for your region?

The media echo for SCF20 was very positive. Also, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, especially hailing the exemplary high quality of the event.