My City / Your City Salon #2 in Prague

All roads lead to innovation and to another full house for reSITE's second salon created in partnership with Airbnb called Urban Tech Pioneers

"How do we make our voices heard more effectively and push for the change we believe will make our cities better?" Sofia Gkiousou of Airbnb posed the essential question of the evening.

"reSITE is not interested in just urbanism or architecture or policy or sharing economy. We are interested in all of it. Innovation, ideas and creativity really happen at intersections. They happen at the crisis points," Martin Barry opened the evening.

Four international tech innovators from living, mobility, quality of life and startup scenes from all corners of Europe spoke at the second sold-out evening salon from our collaborative “My City / Your City” series happening at the SmetanaQ Gallery, Prague. Moderated by the Czech television news anchor Linda Bartosova, they discussed about the potential of technology for cities and the quality of life, with over 150 visitors in the audience.

Airbnb uses technology to connect people and create economic opportunities but also connect them so they actually have offline experiences.
Sofia Gkiousou, Airbnb

Sofia Gkiousou, the Regional Policy Manager for Airbnb, discussed how to create community through sharing while Creative Dock Founder, Martin Pejsa talked about technology alternatives creating decentralized economies. Szilvia Walter, co-founder of EVA Visual Assistant, is commited to creating technology to give independence to those with visual impairments. Invest Lisboa's executive director Rui Coelho spoke from the perspective of a policy maker whose agency changed Lisbon for the better.

Several provocative thoughts surrounding the leveraging tech for the better, and the implications of centralization were discussed during the second evening Salon held in Prague, made possible thanks to Airbnb.

Tech facilitates putting the local into the global - locally relevant but globally accessible
Sofia Gkiousou, Airbnb

Sofia Gkiousou continued the conversation on sharing as a tool for connection and creation of community: "If there is one insight gained from company: the more people travel, the more they become understanding, tolerant, and curious about other people and cultures." Playing on Martin Barry's opening comments, "Cities aren’t about tech, they’re about people."

Airbnb believes in diversity of accommodations. The idea of healthy tourism is providing diverse options that are also healthy to the locals. Sofia pointed out that hosting helps many people to keep their homes and added some numbers:

"By 2030 in Prague there will be 93,000 new people but only 4,000 homes per year. The ability for people to share the extra capacity becomes critical in allowing people to stay where they want to live."

Technology doesn’t mean anything if we aren’t improving people’s lives.

The discussion was mostly concentrated around the question of how we use technology to reinvent what it means to share, asking questions that stimulate the positives and address the negatives, with the common thread that technology doesn’t mean anything if we aren’t improving people’s lives.

We are focused on projects that push for the decentralization and personal autonomy.
Martin Pejsa, Creative Dock

From being able to sell your own data to investing in home-installed solar energy panels and creating charging stations on your property, Martin Pejsa, the Founder and CEO of Creative Dock based in seven cities used examples of projects currently in production. Creative Dock works to materialize ideas that aim to bring that autonomy to the people through tech.

By leveraging technology in the sharing economy and peer to peer platforms, economic power can be returned to the people. He stressed that tech can often cause a centralization of wealth, thus seeking creative ways to counter that by creating more personal autonomy through sharing is essential to creating a safe city.

Martin Pejsa predicts that B2C and C2C models in sharing mobility - the first one being more common for short rides while the second tends to serve longer trips - will become closer and more widespread. "This is very important to create healthier cities," he said.

We believe in giving visually impaired people independence in order to remove the distinction between those with visual impairments and those without.
Szilvia Walter, EVA Visual Assistant

Accessiblity takes on another form, as EVA Visual Assistant's co-founder Szilvia Walter discusses the company's work on making urbanized living better for those whom have visual impairments or blindness. By giving those with disabilties independence, the gap of inclusivity is shortened. Walter also stressed that technology shouldn’t only work in smart cities, but in any city. The idea is to find the right access points.

What is the difference between a guide dog and AI? It costs 60,000 euros to train a seeing-eye dog. Although the technology doesn't substitute the emotional value of the animal, it is much more accessible. Szilvia believes that the first wearable glasses developed by EVA could hit the market by the end of 2018.

I consider myself very lucky: our intention is to create jobs. Support more and more entrepreneurship.
Rui Coelho, Invest Lisboa

Rui Coelho thinks that the massive growth in the sharing economy demonstrates a growing need for flexibility, simplicity, easy access, lower costs and sustainability. The innovative companies and startups – the business community – were fast in taking advantage of technology to the development of new business models in response to those new consumer desires. He considers himself a huge fan of the EU. "I know it’s not sexy to say this but i have to explain: suddenly we are able to unite countries and negotiate things. This is the way to move forward and there is no other way. This is the starting project of uniting the world," he said. No urban challenge can be solved alone.

When it comes to innovation, all roads lead to cities.
Martin Barry, reSITE

The people - the users of technologies, inhabitants of our cities and clients of smart services - were at the heart of the discussion. They are the ones who define the needs and desires, they are the ones who provide feedback, they are the ones who will benefit from their impacts.

Martin Barry, the host of the evening, added that besides the social impact, reSITE is interested in the spacial impact those innovations will implicate for our public spaces and the way we design our cities. The urban environment will change considerably when sharing and autonomous mobility will dominate.

Many more discussions continued during an informal after party that allowed the speakers and guests to mingle amongst each other and enjoying the beautiful Prague views.

Photographs © Tomas Princ, reSITE

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