Towards an IoT from the masses

re:publica is Europe’s largest and most inspiring conference on internet and digital society. It attracts to Berlin over 7000 participants to discuss, in a 500 hours program with more than 850 speakers, themes and topics concerning our interconnected society and creates a space for bloggers, politicians, scientists, business people, artists and activists to come together. The founders of re:publica GmbH, newthinking communications and Spreeblick Verlag have been involved in internet policy and digital culture and society for over a decade. They are also the founders of two of Germany’s most well-known blogs: and This large background on digital policies cleary drove the main themes of the 10th anniversary festival edition – called TEN (or NET), on the first week of May, 2016. One could get a full perspective on world´s worst policies for digital (software and hardware) innovation or enjoy a pleasure talk about the ethics around digital design; a lecture about the economy loss of new migrations while we ignore it or considerable perspectives on how to garantee your rights for privacy on the close future. This political background was also present on The Civic Tech Meet Up. On this panel, it was clearly seen the two paths that Civic Tech term could walk: it is in one hand the applications for citizens – real time sanitation softwares, apps for healthcare or public participation – and, on the other hand, citizens developping applications: a process depending on education & training and the respect to traditional methodologies as source of resources for solutions for contemporary society. For many, it is clear that to foster local open development laboratories – or transformatories – are the basis to build active communities and prevent malicious data manipulation in a digitilized world of attacks on privacy. But there was one special aspect closed related to policies on this year re:publica event: the great number of participants from a grassroots innovation background that sparkled around all the programme or on the makerspace stand that settled in the middle of the exibithion hall. Most of these grassroots innovators were there for the Global Innovation Gathering anual meeting. Under the suggestive slogan “We are what we create together”, the GIG (Global Innovation Gathering) is a vibrant and fast-growing community of innovation hub founders, community managers, makers and hackers from across the world, who exchange ideas and collaborate online as well as offline worldwide. The GIG network was born at the 2013 re:publica conference and has grown and prospered. re:publica has since become the venue for the GIG network’s annual grand gathering. GIG now comprises of more than 100 drivers of global innovation from almost 30 countries. With its diverse members and collaborative projects and due to its truly equitable setup, GIG is pursuing a new vision for development and cooperation based on equality, openness and sharing. In between their hubs of innovation, a wide range of initiatives can be pointed out, as innovative as #peacehackcamp, a cooperation between r0g agency (Germany) (Berlin) and jhub (South Sudan) that intends to be an intense exercise on both practical and conceptual frameworks of Open Source applied as resource for educational, management and economical models. #peacehackcamp believes that the use of ICTs and open data act as implementation triggers for open systems projects in order to see and effectively create viable examples of what can be done on the ground on post-conflict and nascent civil society contexts in a dialogue about the ways in which open systems solutions and their implementation can help in mitigating the state’s identified key challenge areas. One can also percieve a great number of practices on mobility, innovations for the health sector, refugee camps technologies and an immense sort of digital dispositives and methodologies rised from local contexts. The GIG network contributes on exchange these knowledge and best practices to foster collaborations in sector-specific partnerships with donors, investors and experts to expand the reach and the hubs’ brands.

re:publica festival – including the crescent support for the GIG network – is funded by The Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb), a federal public authority providing citizenship education and information on political issues for all people in Germany. The broad range of educational activities provided is designed to motivate people and enable them to give critical thought to political and social issues and play an active part in political life. Considering Germany’s experience with various forms of dictatorial rule down through its history, the Federal Republic of Germany bears a unique responsibility for firmly anchoring values such as democracy, pluralism and tolerance in people’s minds. Moreover, between the event´s partners, one can found The Federal Ministry of Germany on Labor and Social Affairs, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and Berlin´s Senate Department for Economics,Technology and Research. Big companies like Telefonica, Car Mobile – BOSCH, Telekon, Vodafone Institute, IBM, Google, Mercedes Benz, Autodesk and Microsoft were also supporting and taking part on the exibithion. The reason is simple: community innovation hubs, makerspace and hackerspace – an old-fashion model on tech industry – is hailed as a powerful, nascent movement in which people are getting the things from each other – a combination of trends like the sharing economy, maker movement, and co-innovation: The Collaborative Economy. Big brands are already grappling with the emergence of startups that are driving this growth. For those new to the term, the collaborative economy is something around a 5 billions dolars market, and have some great perspectives to reach a double sized market just in United States the next 3 years. Sounds great, but in comparisson with many other investments areas, like automotive industry or the energy sector, this means peanuts. So, what is the real interest of Big Players on the maker/hubs/innovation movment?

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I assume everyone can easily answer this question: grassroots adaptation differs according to the level of risk, and the Collaborative Economy is the best place to find solutions and adaptations from these grassroots level for any type of social risk. The big industry lead the process of recognizing communities as partners with expertise and experience in building process and products rather than as clients of beneficiaries projects. And, at these moment, governments have in their hands the challenge to determine the pathways for those technological innovations about to come: traditional big industries and dictatorial and corrupt governments tend to priorize the surveillance side of these new technologies: big data, abnormalities, financial and biological control to maintain the status quo; contemporary economic-thinking industries alongside more fair and democratic states are searching to increase population’s political, social and economical participation to garantee global sustainability: participative democracy, population self-regulamentation/control and sustainable economical growth. Maybe those are the reasons why Swiss invests worldwide on their innovation agenda.

In the policies field, the Dutch consulate in Rio de Janeiro and the Rio Prefeitura (Rio de Janeiro Townhall) have taken the initiative to bring together designers, civil servants, citizens and entrepreneurs for a weeklong design workshop, an exposition and a seminar. Called Resilient Cities, Smart Citizens, rose questions on how can we enable citizens to be at the center of the solutions and what can design and creativity bring to the table? Further, how can city governments find new ways to collaborate with these new actors? Can government facilitate a new economic model that helps to foster digital social innovation and entrepreneurship? The programme, hosted by the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED), Waag Society, Institute for Arts, Science and Open Technology and Olabi Makerspace is clear in its message: the Internet of Things should be designed and controlled by the communities for whom these technologies are supposed to help on. After an intense week of workshops on public ambiental measurements, most of the discussion panels on the last day seminar were composed of one member of Rio’s public sector, an independent policie advocate and usually two or three successfull experiences on community innovation on the specific panel issue. In one side, the antiquade Orwellian panopticon used by Rio’s administration as the sui generis system on survillance and control for resilience, and, on the other, hundreds of initiatives presented as methods for a more citizen centered Internet of Things, focused on people’s ability to model, mantain and govern on a small scale resulting on greater benefits for a sustainable growth. When asked by the Dutch Embassor, Mr. Han Peters, on how to make Rio’s Centro de Operações more tangible and appropriated by the poorest city’s population, it’s Executive in Chief, Pedro Junqueira, finished his answer: “I think I didn’t answer your question, did I?”. Yes, Mr. Junqueira, you really didn’t. And leaving the conference after your first talk, loose the opportunity to help and rise the economical and social equality in Rio de Janeiro, and the ability to have a better answer when asked by the next state embassor.