The City that Invented Democracy is Reinventing it for the 21st Century and Beyond

Today, data and technology are re-inventing how cities function. Cities across the globe are trying to crack the code on how to best leverage the new opportunities these advances present, to better respond to their residents and support local businesses. As Principal of the Digital Strategies practice at Bloomberg Associates, a global philanthropic consulting firm, I see this first-hand around the world and in our work with the City of Athens.

The City of Athens is working with Bloomberg Associates to apply best practices from cities around the world and to develop programs that will improve the quality of life of Athenians. (Pictured: Athens Mayor Kaminis and Katherine Oliver. )

The City of Athens is working with Bloomberg Associates to apply best practices from cities around the world and to develop programs that will improve the quality of life of Athenians. (Pictured: Athens Mayor Kaminis and Katherine Oliver. )

I was proud to be in Athens this month speaking alongside Mayor Kaminis and Europe’s first-ever municipal Chief Digital Officer, Konstantinos Champidis, at the launch of the Athens Digital Roadmap, a strategic plan for Athens to build upon their digital offerings by expanding internet access, increasing transparency, and engaging residents through digital technologies.

Under the bold leadership of Mayor Kaminis, Athens has embraced the belief that municipal government can use digital tools and communications to be as effective as the private sector by adopting a customer-focused mind-set, constantly measuring progress, and adapting one's strategy to reflect changing market demands. Mayor Kaminis also understands that this requires a plan and partnerships to accomplish these goals.

Europe’s first-ever municipal Chief Digital Officer, Konstantinos Champidis, and Todd Asher from Bloomberg Associates welcome attendees to the Roadmap launch.

Europe’s first-ever municipal Chief Digital Officer, Konstantinos Champidis, and Todd Asher from Bloomberg Associates welcome attendees to the Roadmap launch.

Against the backdrop of challenging economic and social challenges, Mayor Kaminis has forged ahead, steadily developing Athens’ digital foundations. In 2015, the Athens Partnership was launched to be a catalyst for innovative public programs, and to create partnerships between the city and the private sector. The following year, Mayor Kaminis appointed Europe’s first-ever municipal Chief Digital Officer to spearhead the municipality’s digital initiatives. Together they launched the Athens Digital Council, a strategic advisory body that brings together leaders of the largest digital and telecommunications companies in Greece, as well as distinguished professors from leading Greek universities, to advise the municipality on cost-effective ways to harness technology. These partnerships – with leaders that are household names not only in Greece but around the world – are truly unprecedented.

As Principal of the Media and Digital Strategies practice at Bloomberg Associates, I have the privilege of working with cities around the globe in their efforts to modernize and embrace the opportunities that technology offers.

As Principal of the Media and Digital Strategies practice at Bloomberg Associates, I have the privilege of working with cities around the globe in their efforts to modernize and embrace the opportunities that technology offers.

The launch of the Athens Digital Roadmap marks another significant milestone in this journey. This strategy outlines projects centered on the digital priority areas of the municipality, which include Internet access, e-government, digital skills education and online engagement. Together, these projects will make it easier for people to access critical services, connect people to new skills, and make Athens a more livable city for its residents and a friendlier city for businesses and visitors.

The Athens Digital Roadmap was launched at the City of Athens’ new Serafeio complex, which hosts a number of innovative Municipal initiatives including the Athens Digital Lab, synAthina, Athens Culture Net and the Designed for Better Learning Maker Space.

The Athens Digital Roadmap was launched at the City of Athens’ new Serafeio complex, which hosts a number of innovative Municipal initiatives including the Athens Digital Lab, synAthina, Athens Culture Net and the Designed for Better Learning Maker Space.

The Athens Municipality knows that tracking progress and adapting to changing dynamics is critical to success. Therefore, the Athens Digital Roadmap will be a living document, poised to be evaluated and updated on an annual basis to ensure the municipality leverages its successes and is constantly evolving to deliver results. With these efforts in place, I am confident that Athens is on-track to be a leading digital city, and am excited to help enable the Athens of the future.

Katherine Oliver, Principal, Bloomberg Associates Media & Digital Strategies team

Download the Athens Digital Roadmap.

75 organizations working together to improve conditions for migrants and refugees in Athens

Athens Mayor George Kaminis today visited the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues and met representatives of NGOs and other organisations which have joined forces under the coordination of the Municipality of Athens to improve service delivery for migrants and refugees in Athens.

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"The city of Athens is proactively coordinating the voluntary and non-governmental organizations active in the field of migrant refugee support, aiming at social integration in the city", stressed the Mayor of Athens, Mr. George Kaminis, welcoming the representatives of these organizations and thanking founding donor, Stavros Niarchos Foundation for their decisive support.

The Center, set up and operating since June 2017 with an exclusive donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and with the coordination of the Athens Partnership, aims to coordinate efforts between the municipality of Athens and all those active in the field of support and integration of migrants and refugees.

“The donation for the establishment of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues is part of the large donation of €10 million from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to the municipality of Athens, aiming at strengthening the capital's residents faced with a period of crisis, but also of regeneration opportunities. Initiatives such as these, which highlight the possibilities for public-private partnerships for the benefit of the wider community, are now more necessary than ever", said Myrto Xanthopoulou, a representative of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation's Grant Management.

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The Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues has 75 member bodies with more than 200 delegates. The Center includes representatives from international and Greek NGOs, international organizations, immigrant communities, as well as municipal agencies. The main common goal is to develop a coordinated response both for dealing with new potential emergencies, as well as for the smooth integration of the immigrant and refugee population in the city of Athens.

Building a strong partnership network

Recently, the Center led the signing of 3 Memoranda of Understanding with other municipalities in Greece, with the aim of exchanging know-how and support for similar projects at a local level. So far, Memoranda have been signed with the municipalities of Thessaloniki, Trikala and Tripoli.

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Through the work of the Center’s Technical Committees, gaps and needs have been identified and 65 proposals for pilot actions have already been produced with the aim of meeting the needs of migrants and refugees in areas such as housing, education, health, labor market integration and legal support.

At the same time, the Center has organized seminars, presentations and workshops in collaboration with important institutions. For example, the Center coordinates the participation of its members in the Athens - World Book Capital 2018 and is co-organizer of the Refugee Code Week initiative, through which more than 350 young refugees have been trained to date on the basic principles of programming.

Volunteer Athens Greeters give a warm welcome to the world!

As Athens neared a record-breaking 5 million visitors this year, our "Greeters program", coordinated by the Athens Partnership, made sure a warm welcome awaited tourists. A huge thank you goes to out to our 120 enthusiastic volunteers who were engaged in this City of Athens project that was successfully completed a few days ago with the support of The Hellenic Initiative, Aegean Airlines and Athens International Airport.

This video shows how the Athens Greeters are shared their love for their city and their intimate knowledge of Athens with the world!

The Athens Greeters program is part of the Athens Tourism Partnership, a wider effort to boost the tourist influx and local economy. The Athens Tourism Partnership aims to promote the Greek capital as a modern, attractive year-round destination.

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Athens Digital Lab: An innovative venture that changes Athens and supports youth entrepreneurship

An initiative of the Athens Partnership, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), COSMOTE and Nokia, with an exclusive grant by the SNF.

The creation of the Athens Digital Lab, an innovative venture that aims to change Athens though revolutionary digital solutions, was announced today. Funded by an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), the Athens Digital Lab brings together the City of Athens with COSMOTE, Nokia and SNF, in a groundbreaking venture coordinated by the Athens Partnership. This unique smart city research and development laboratory will support innovative solutions that will improve the quality of life of Athens’ residents and visitors.

The Athens Digital Lab competition is calling for digital ideas with the potential to change the city and invites individuals, groups and new technology enthusiasts to submit proposals that can evolve into advanced Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for smart cities. Proposals are requested to cover the following themes: cleaning, parking, green spaces, public spaces, vehicle fleet, open theme.

Five teams will be selected and will have the opportunity to work for a six-month period in a specially designed, modern and fully equipped lab, which will be provided by the municipality of Athens, having at their disposal all the technical and financial resources required for the implementation of their proposal. In addition, teams will receive:
• Technical support and guidance from executives of the municipality of Athens, COSMOTE and Nokia
• Access to the Nokia IMPACT IoT platform, a secure, standards-based, IoT platform on which to build and scale new IoT services
• Advanced network infrastructure by COSMOTE.

During implementation, teams will be able to perform field trials and will have access to the relevant data of the city for testing the solutions. The solutions that will be developed can be implemented in the municipality of Athens for two years while at the same time gaining access to sales channels in Greece and abroad, with the support of COSMOTE and Nokia.

Proposals submissions begins on October 17 and will end on Sunday, November 19, 2017. Submissions are made exclusively at www.athensdigitallab.gr.

The Mayor of Athens, Mr. George Kaminis, said: "With the Athens Digital Lab, Athens gets its own research and development laboratory for advanced Smart City solutions and the digital strategy of the municipality of Athens enters the implementation phase. We aim for technological solutions that will optimize everyday life for the citizens of Athens in the best possible way. We give young people - engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs the chance to become part of this development. We thank the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for its continuous support and trust, as well as Athens Partnership, COSMOTE and Nokia, who support the present and the future of Athens".

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Athens earns EU award for innovative solutions to migrant and refugee crisis

The City of Athens received €5 million award to implement the proposal “Curing the Limbo” which was submitted to the second call of the Urban Innovative Actions initiative of the European Union. The results were announced during the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017 in Brussels.

Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is an Initiative of the European Union to provide urban areas throughout Europe with resources to pilot innovative solutions for complex urban challenges. Among the themes of the second call were (a) the integration of migrants and refugees, (b) circular economy and (c) urban mobility. Athens’ proposal in the topic “integration of migrants and refugees” was selected along with 15 out of a total of 206 proposals from 21 European member states.

The City of Athens’ proposal “Curing the Limbo” is about empowering stranded refugees who have been granted asylum to get out of a characteristic state referred as “limbo” which has struck a part of the population doomed to months and years of waiting for the next stage in their life. It involves four strategic partners: two international NGOs, CRS (Catholic Relief Services) International and IRC Hellas (International Rescue Committee), the University of Athens and the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency S.A.

From Brussels the Mayor of Athens, Georgios Kaminis stated that: "I am particularly glad that once again City of Athens’ engagement in social innovation projects and especially its’ linking to the important issue of refugee integration is being awarded and supported by European funding, proving that cities can provide solutions to the multiple challenges Europe is facing”.

The program connects refugees with active citizens of Athens offering an escape from inertia through their participation in activities for the public benefit that respond to existing needs of the city. At the same time it develops the soft skills required for the refugees’ integration and offers incentives and tools for the acquisition of affordable housing.

The idea addresses a universal phenomenon burdening the spirit in many other European cities: The inactive population, whether it consists of newly arrived refugees, under-skilled migrants, unemployed locals, or solitary pensioners, is a challenge of our times.

“Athens’ proposal was based on the experience earned by the City of Athens in the last two years by managing the refugee crisis through the Coordination Center for Migrants and Refugees-which is exclusively funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and facilitated by the Athens Partnership-and the Accommodation Program for Asylum Seekers. Through these initiatives we realized that there was an unaddressed urgent challenge in the city. The implementation of the idea will be coordinated through synAthina, which connects Athenian civil society with local government to maximize impact”, stated Amalia Zepou, Vice Mayor for Civil Society and Innovation. synAthina was a 2014 winner of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, an ideas competition for cities.