Smart cities need smart collaboration

Smart cities can't spring up without collaborations between governments and citizens. To flourish, conversations about what matters most is important.
22 March 2018

Smart cities are the key to the future urban landscape | Source: Shutterstock

When cities begin to struggle with overpopulation, vehicular traffic, and pollution or face a resource crunch such as difficulties managing its power or water, it needs to evolve and transform into a smart city.

And although several cities around the world have either crossed or are about to cross the threshold where they have no choice but to evolve, there’s a lack of momentum in the transformation efforts.

But governments and municipal boards can’t just pick up the baton and make choices for citizens about what needs to happen and what their collective future will look like – it’s got to be a collaborative effort. And citizens must be involved.

According to Gartner, smart city initiatives are no longer about optimized traffic patterns, parking management, efficient lighting and improvements to public works; It’s all about citizen engagement.

Bettina Tratz-Ryan, Research Vice-President at Gartner said:

The way forward today is a community-driven, bottom-up approach where citizens are an integral part of designing and developing smart cities, and not a top-down policy with city leaders focusing on technology platforms alone.

For smart citizens, the focus is not just about the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and smart machines, but the enhancement of services and experience.

Therefore, the citizen-government dialogue is a key component that will ensure that the right issues are tackled.

To keep pace with the changing needs of citizens, and the development of new business, cities are now striving to become not just smart, but also innovative.

Machine learning and chatbots are being used to engage citizens or assets with their environment.

Cities are building business and technology policies to assess the opportunities offered by potentially disruptive technologies like AI for elderly care, autonomous driving or delivery bots.

In addition, there are emerging use cases for blockchain for transactions and in record keeping.

Changes in citizen mindsets mean that governments must change their mindsets.

“Government CIOs today need to look at creating innovation strategies to attract new industries and develop digital skills. They need to look at changing their spatial planning, road infrastructure, data, and service management,” said Traz-Ryan.

To tackle the problem, Gartner analysts have some recommendations for CIOs in local governments:

Identify and prioritize: CIOs must understand the problems that directly impact citizens and apply technology to solve these problems.

For instance, they must align data and information gathered through AI and machine learning to match the specific requirements of citizens and the business.

Be mindful: CIOs should be mindful of the digital divide and pay equal attention to the issues of citizens with fewer IT skills.

Incorporating technologies such as natural-language-powered virtual personal assistants is a step in this direction.

Develop transparency: CIOs need to create open data strategies guaranteeing access to all interested parties in a city.

Open data portals allow industries and universities — as well as interested citizens — unencumbered access.

Use measurements and KPIs to explain the progress of smart city to stakeholders: The key to CIO success is building objectives by developing key performance indicators (KPIs) that detect stakeholder priorities and measure success and impact.

Now, as the world plans to pump in US$80 billion in technology for smart cities and raise the stakes to touch US$135 billion by 2021, more attention needs to be paid on the plan and strategy behind the investment.

There’s a whole load of new technologies and solutions coming up to help those on the planning commission.

Companies like Nokia, Teradata, Cisco, AT&T, and many others, for example, have made announcements about a new partnership, solution or framework focused on smart cities in the past month.

Now, for everyone reading this, if the article has inspired confidence in you to help transform your urban environment into the next smart city, here’s a list of the top 10 smart cities. If there’s another city you call home, can you make room for yourself on this list?

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. Singapore, Singapore
  3. Stockholm, Sweden
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Boston, USA
  6. Tokyo, Japan
  7. San Francisco, USA
  8. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  9. Geneva, Switzerland
  10. Melbourne, Australia

Courtesy of the Easypark Group, the list considered factors like the availability of smart parking, car sharing services, environment protection, citizen participation, internet speed and wifi hotspots, urban planning, smart buildings, and many other factors.

If you’re vying for a spot among the top 10, whether you’re a citizen or a government CIO, you’ve got about nine months on your hands and a whole lot of work to do – so get started now.