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Panorama of the main building of Liege University, Source: Liege University on Facebook

Liege University published guide to help cities monitor and evaluate Smart City projects

Liege University published guide to help cities monitor and evaluate Smart City projects

The guide is available to everyone and its objective is to provide expertise and benchmark examples for public officials and local governments

On 15 September, the Smart City Institute in Liege University in Belgium published the fifth volume of their Smart Cities Guide for municipalities. This edition deals with monitoring and evaluation of Smart City projects and contains practical guides, as well as benchmark examples to help municipal authorities gain a better understanding of projects and their effectiveness.

The full collection of guides and companion material is free and available through the Liege University web portal.

A university providing expertise

The University of Liege decided to start making and publishing the guides after they noticed how regional governments sometimes tend to invest in ineffective solutions to questionable ends. This motivated the research team to create guides, that will help to provide the administration with the practical knowledge-based decision-making tools to implement effective Smart solutions.

This particular volume is centred around the concepts of monitoring and evaluation. The guide’s objective is to provide cities and towns with the awareness of the added value of monitoring and evaluation when it comes to Smart City initiatives, as well as a benchmark of knowledge on monitoring and evaluation methods and practices.

The team at Liege picked the theme through a study from February 2020, carried out in Wallonia, on the main challenges and shortcomings local administrations have.

According to the study, the majority of municipalities consider the evaluation and monitoring process to be quite important and useful, however, less than 20% are able to carry it out. This is because of several reasons that the study pointed out:

  • 12 out of 25 times municipalities lacked the manpower and human resources to carry out monitoring and evaluation;
  • 11 out of 25 times municipalities lacked the technical know-how;
  • 4 out of 25 times municipalities had issues of biases and subjective decision making;
  • 2 out of 25 times municipalities lacked in entrepreneurial experience;
  • 2 out of 25 times municipalities lacked proper access to data.

Monitoring and evaluation: what is the difference?

Monitoring and evaluation are two intrinsically linked concepts, however, each process has distinct functions. According to the guide, monitoring basically means a follow-up on how a project is functioning.

It is used to identify potential deviations from its objective. In simple terms, monitoring means collecting and analysing data, identifying potential deviations from a project’s objectives and making the necessary adjustments.

Evaluation, on the other hand, allows for a more in-depth and nuanced analysis of the reasons for the success or failure of an action. It goes beyond monitoring and aims to provide a more in-depth and nuanced analysis.

Although different, these two concepts contribute to the effective functioning of initiatives by increasing their overall value and, ultimately, their impact.

The benefits of monitoring and evaluation

Since there is no guarantee that Smart City initiatives will automatically improve the well-being of citizens, monitoring and evaluation are fundamental for gauging the value of a project. They allow regional governments to explain to what extent a project is sustainable and how it improves people’s lives or is actually detrimental.

These knowledge-based tools are beneficial both for the administration and for the population. They give local authorities the chance to manage their assets better, more rationally and focus on continuous improvement.

For the population, this means transparency, both in the effectiveness and the value of projects with regard to their lives.

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