- Published: 18 October 2023
Building a smart city (SMC) is a sustainable goal of many nations, and technology is often assigned a pivotal role. Meanwhile, some theorists propose moving from a technology-centric approach to a more human-centric one in policymaking. So how will the SMC concept play out in reality?
Professor HU Wanyang, Assistant Professor of CityU’s Department of Public and International Affairs, and her research team, studied SMC policies in China by conducting a text analysis of policy documents from 341 Chinese prefectural cities published between 2009 and 2020. The findings were different from what theorists had predicted.
China’s SMC development has been part of significant initiatives in its Five-Year Plans, with the central government taking a top-down approach. Since 2009, Chinese cities have dedicated massive public investment to developing information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure.
The prevalence of the technology-centric approach in China’s SMC development is due to three factors. First, smart technologies can address urban issues derived from rapid socioeconomic development. Second, China’s top-down policy-driven mode provides robust policy support for using smart technologies. However, it limits citizen participation in planning SMC development strategies and results in the extensive adoption of the technology-centric approach.
Lastly, economically developed cities are more active in SMC policymaking, as demonstrated by the degree of economic development and population density varying among the Chinese cities covered in the study. Since higher fiscal capacity allows more investment in SMC development, these cities can use new technology to tackle urban management issues and enhance their role in the global discourse of SMC development. Although the importance of human-centricity is predicted to increase, economically developed and denser cities tend to remain more technology-centric.
Chinese cities at different stages of SMC development also prioritise technology over human elements. At the initial stage, cities focus solely on building ICT infrastructure. At the most advanced stage, cities prioritise human capital and quality of life, while promoting technological applications and public-private partnerships. The study suggested that developing human capital in SMC policies is necessary for China.
Publication and achievements:
Hu, W; Wang, S; and Zhai, W (2023), Human-centric vs Technology-centric Approaches in a Top-down Smart City Development Regime: Evidence from 341 Chinese Cities, Cities, vol 137, pp 104271. DOI: 10.1016/j.cities.2023.104271
Quelle/Source: South China Morning Post, 10.10.2023