21 June 2019 From Everyone for Everyone

Switch Port wins Tada award during the Amsterdam City Challenge

Tessel Renzenbrink
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The winner of the award for the best implementation of the Tada values during the Amsterdam City Challenge is Switch Port. The team pitched a resident-led energy cooperative involving the local community in generating renewable energy in their own neighborhood. “The Tada principles are being put into tangible practice in this project. The citizen is really the central point here,” Douwe Schmidt from Bureau Tada says during the award ceremony.

The City Challenge was a 24-hour hackathon organized by the municipality of Amsterdam and various partners. Eight teams worked feverishly all through the night to come up with solutions to challenges related to urban mobility and sustainable energy. In the 027W building in the former navy shipyard, a few sleeping bags still lie scattered here and there, left behind by contestants who managed to snag one or two hours of shut-eye during the night. The windows and walls are covered with a bright, colorful splattering of hundreds of post-its filled with ideas. At 11 in the morning on the 17th of June, exactly 24 hours after the hackathon started, each team had 3 minutes to pitch their solution to a jury of six people.

How does this benefit the people?

Schmidt was on the jury as a representative of Tada. “It’s fantastic that the Tada principles are receiving so much attention in the Challenge. This proves once again that the municipal authorities take the ethical aspects of the digital city seriously. A good technological solution is not only cost-effective and efficient, but also ethical. The broader question that everyone has is: will this be useful to the people of Amsterdam?” Not only was there a separate Tada award, but the implementation of Tada values was also one of the five criteria required to win the grand prize. In addition, the submissions had to be original, realistic, add social value, and include a good presentation and teamwork.

Great victory for Switch Port

The Switch Port team is not only taking home the Tada award; they also won the audience award, as well as first prize in the renewable energy category. The challenge that the team tackled was a project to generate renewable energy in the Houthavens area of Amsterdam. The aim was to generate electricity on the Haparanda Dam in this neighborhood along the banks of the IJ River. But how can that be achieved in ways that are fun for the people living and working in the surrounding area? Switch Port wants to generate 240,000 kWh by placing solar panels on the dam. This major intervention will directly affect the neighborhood, and especially the people living there. That’s why the team proposed creating an energy cooperative, allowing the local residents to buy shares, which would cost €50 apiece. By buying shares, the residents have a say in the initiative, voting rights about the direction the co-op will take and receive part of the profits.

“The team wants to build a public infrastructure that involves a convergence of many different interests,” Schmidt says. “Their solution ensures that the stakeholders truly become co-owners of the project. As such, they’re implementing multiple Tada values: it’s inclusive, citizens have control and can have a say in the matter, and it’s transparent. This dramatically increases the legitimacy of your project.”

Tada does not need to be rushed

About the other teams, Schmidt said:  “A hackathon like this is a pressure cooker. You can’t expect people to fully implement the Tada principles in such a short time. The most important thing is that you keep the option open to implement those values later on in the process.” He references another team as an example. De Goede Weg designed a solution for traffic congestion on the bicycle path. Paving stones with embedded lights mark different routes. Cyclists who are really in a hurry can follow the red lights for the fastest possible route. But people who have time to spare can take a calmer, greener route mapped out with green lights. “A wonderful solution,” Schmidt says. “It’s very inclusive. This is technology that you can understand, touch and see. And that demystifies technology. It’s public and everybody can use it.”

Schmidt is less complimentary about the second component of the concept: an app in which cyclists show their preference – faster or greener – and can also be used as a navigation system by means of integration with Google Maps. Schmidt: “It’s not very inclusive, since you have to have a smart phone to be able to use it. And then you have to install an app that tracks your location and shares your data. If that’s part of your solution, then you have not left the option open to implement Tada principle at a later stage.”

The Amsterdam City Challenge marked the kick-off of the WeMakeThe.City festival. The event was organized by the municipality of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region and the Climate Neutral program in collaboration with EIT Climate-KIC and the AMS Institute, the WeMakeThe.City festival and Amsterdam Smart City.

Author: Tessel Renzenbrink
Translator: Joy Philips

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