Episode#56 Istanbul & Madrid: Empowering Cities through Data and Digital Innovation

Guests@Erol Ozguner, CIO of the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul, Türkiye, and @FERNANDO DE PABLO MARTÍN, General Director of the Digital Office of the City Council of Madrid, Spain

Date of recording: 7 November 2023

Find transcript here


Summaries of Key Takeaways:  

  • Digital Transformation Initiatives: Both cities emphasize digital transformation in public services, cybersecurity, and data governance as pivotal for city administration and service delivery. 
  • Challenges and Solutions in Urban Management: They discuss specific urban challenges, such as interoperability, cybersecurity, and emergency management, particularly Istanbul's focus on earthquake preparedness. 
  • Public-Private Partnerships and Citizen Involvement: Highlighting the importance of involving citizens in urban development projects and leveraging public-private partnerships for innovative solutions. 
  • Strategic Planning for Future Technologies: Both cities are planning for the integration of future technologies like AI and digital twins to improve urban management and services. 


“To you, what is a Smart City?”

Fernando de Pablo Martin: “Well, it is not an easy question because we are talking about the smart city, the total formation. There were a time ten years ago that the people talk about the smart cities. A lot of sensor black boxes, magic solution to resolve the city and now it's artificial intelligence, now magic solution. But this is not the truth. And now I think it's more important this human centered vision about the real problem of the people. For me, Smart City is a city that use, of course technology and the data generated by the city to shape what I say the city more attractive, more competitive, with the best quality of life for the people who live, work or visiting the city and of course with city council more efficient. So I think technology and digitalization and digital transformation help also to this type of city. More sustainable, more inclusive, and with a high level of cohesion between all the people in the city. And for me, this is city.”  

Erol Özgüner: “Yes, actually, mostly when we are talking to Smart City technology solutions, people bring in some one abbreviation, PPP public Private Partnership. We will do together with private sector, something like that. But always I'm saying that where is the fourth P? Where is people? So the most important thing, all the technological solutions has to serve to our citizens, to a person, to our community. So for me, the definition of Smart City, the whole technologies which is serving to all citizens, all people for increasing their life quality.” 


  • Invest in data collection and analysis tools to empower leaders with accurate and timely information.

"All public authorities should make their own decision based on data, [...] so that no one can say anything about it." - Erol Özgüner

  • Engage with the community to ensure that technology implementations directly enhance their quality of life

"Listen to the citizen and to the companies because they are really putting the focus on what they need, not what you think they need." - Fernando de Pablo Martín

  • City leaders should embrace technology as a driving force for innovation and efficiency in decision-making

"Technology is not a supporter anymore. Technology is an enabler and drives all decision-making systems." - Erol Özgüner