Zellmer, David B. "The Knowledgeable City: A Networked, Knowledge-Based Strategy for Local Governance and Urban Development." A Major Paper submitted for Masters of Urban and Regional Planning, Virginia Tech. April 6, 2001.

Keywords: Community Collaboration, Innovation, Local Knowledge Infrastructure


This work presents David Zellmer’s vision of a 21st century style of urban governance in which he describes an urban management and planning strategy based on two synergistic themes; the development of an open, networked form of local governance and the purposeful management of the “local knowledge infrastructure”.

Chapter 2 -The challenges facing cities of the 21st century

Within the next twenty five years, it is projected that 61% of the world’s population will reside in cities; making urban problems and solutions, world problems and solutions. With this in mind Zellmer suggests that urban solutions for sustainable development become solutions that can be applied globally.

Since information and communication technologies (ITC) have become fundamental forces in promoting societal change, universal information infrastructure access has become a major goal for many nations. The globalization of the economy however, in no way implies worldwide inclusion rather the opposite. For this reason, local government must take the leadership role in addressing the negative impacts of globalization.

Chapter 3 The need for a new form of local governance

Cities have traditionally lead the way in integrating local economic, environmental, cultural issues into sustainable, development. Today, cities need to incorporate all these factors while restructuring themselves to participate in global economy. This means that cities must commit themselves to developing the support infrastructures (road, air, telecom, housing,etc) that will improve global rather than regional competitiveness. This may be facilitated by merging efforts across regions for the purpose of attracting global interest. The outcome of these “regional” efforts can also address some of the pressures the civic sector places on local government; more responsiveness and accountability and improved access to resources and services.

Unfortunately, regional efforts tend to add to the complexity of local governments and undermine area-based development in favor of hierarchical sector-dominated government programs. The responsibility of local then government shifts to incorporate the demands of higher government agencies. Sector effects may further the inequities of opportunities and resources at the local level. (13)

On the other hand, many argue that complexity of urban systems enables flexibility, responsiveness and adaptability. A new framework is suggested for managing urban development in a way that takes advantage of these dynamic capabilities. By reorganizing local government in collaborative, non-hierarchical, arrangements with other stakeholders is essential to capturing the opportunities and demands of the new economy. A global network of “urban nodes” that rely on the cooperative exchange of information is the key distinction between the old, industrial economy and the new, global economy.

Chapter 4 - The search for an effective urban development agenda

Urban areas faced with creating a balanced development agenda are focusing on building and retaining knowledge capacity of its citizens. In the New Economy, knowledge and intellectual capital are assets. Knowledge has become a production factor of the New Economy. This being the case, the education of citizens, children and adults, plays a pivotal role in future development strategy. Urban policy should encourage the development of “local knowledge infrastructure” for improving knowledge capacity, and strengthening the economical, social, and cultural relationships unique to each city. By actively promoting knowledge infrastructure as a basis for urban development, a competitive and cooperative environment can develop. Locality specific economies engaged in productive collaborations have a competitive advantage. If knowledge is considered a collaborative activity then the knowledge worker also has a competitive advantage that allows them to be selective of locational preference, in favor of non-economic qualities of life. Therefore it is in a city’s best interest to promote policy that strengthens the intellectual infrastructure which in turn will stabilize its local knowledge-based economy.

Summary the emergence of multidisciplinary, multisectoral economic networks (or clusters) as a key characteristic of sucessufl global competition.

Chapter 5 Managing the local knowledge infrastructure

Individuals and organizations, with their unique set of skills (knowledge) are considered knowledge nodes. The interconnections of knowledge nodes for any combination of economic, social and cultural exchange, from all segments of urban life make up the “knowledge network infrastructure”. Local governance should recognize the knowledge infrastructure as a tangible asset that benefits all stakeholders of a city and adds a competitive advantage.

Local governance should cultivate the development of knowledge infrastructures and integrate them into the development strategies of the city. The knowledge infrastructure should be managed just a seriously as any other public infrastructure with provisions for monitoring and nurturing as necessary to ensure increased local development.
Innovation and responsiveness from all sectors have become key characteristics of in sustaining city vitality.

Examples of good and bad management of knowledge infrastructures are given.

Chapter 6 Developing a local knowledge infrastructure information base

The concept of a “local knowledge infrastructure information base” LKIIB is discussed as a way to represent the essential elements of the local knowledge infrastructure. A chief goal of the information base is to maintain and make easily accessible information about community collaborations, interconnections and supporting organizations and individuals. The concept of a LKIIB is similar to the way corporations use a knowledge infrastructures (web-sites?) to relate the company profiles, goals, resources, information and the interrelation of separate corporate activities to stakeholders . The goal of LKIIB is to be an “object-oriented” data model of the local knowledge infrastructure. LKIIB could which provides equal representation and access to all the knowledge nodes (stakeholders) for the purpose of centralizing information on common local knowledge resources and established interconnections. Such a system could enhance community effectiveness in urban management and development.

Chapter 7 Activities and programs for managing local knowledge information infrastructure for local sustainable development

The coordination of separate community centric development strategies can be enhanced through the development of a local knowledge infrastructure information base (LKIIB). Through the collaborative development, use, management and promotion of the LKIIB, networked governance can effectively approach development strategies that serve to position the city competitively in the global economy while encompassing the social, economic, cultural and environment spheres of a community Case studies of community based efforts are provided that demonstrate the importance of understanding the diversity and breadth of the local economy. Zellmer claims that a shared and accessible LKIIB is fundamental to networked governance.

Chapter 8 The World Wide Web and the knowledgeable city: implications for local governance

This chapter focuses on the design and the access mechanism for the local knowledge infrastructure information base (LKIIB). The World Wide Web (WWW) is an obvious choice for hosting the LKIIB for it’s ability to provide an open (available to anyone with access to the Internet) and flexible foundation. Zellmer cites many of the problems inherent to web based applications; loss of place and space, inequity of access for example.

By designing the concepts of localness and interconnectivity standards into a web based LKIIB, Zellmer contents that a sense of “community presence” can be achieved. However, the LKIIB does not have to be delivered strictly via the Internet. Zellmer also points out that if the LKIIB is designed strategically, much of the information contained could be delivered via alternate mechanisms such as phone recordings, print or broadcast media. Multiple access mechanisms to information contained within the LKIIB can help to promote and reinforce local discourse, collaborative innovation and improvement of community well being. A consequence of incorporating information technologies in the urban development process is that in time “digital divide” conditions may be reduced.

Chapter 9 - Conclusions

The local knowledge infrastructure is a key community asset and is essential to community based and community oriented innovation. The management of the knowledge infrastructure is a fundamental strategy for urban governance in the global economy. Using ICT based technologies to manage the knowledge infrastructure provides the potential for all citizens to participate local governance through in the interconnected knowledge networks of the city. Zellmer concludes that these new tools and capabilities can leverage the unique knowledge resources of a city and influence change.