- Published: 18 December 2021
Two years of pandemic-induced shutdowns have underlined the importance of improving our ability to quickly deploy technological tools in urban settings. These must be developed to overcome challenges in our health, education and governance sectors to avoid the waves of crises accompanying each Covid-19 outbreak. The urgency was underlined at November’s SCEWC (Smart City Expo World Congress) summit which assembled over 30,000 professionals from urban innovation systems based in 120 countries. “Our 10th anniversary edition comes at a time when cities need to be together even more,” insisted SCEWC director Ugo Valenti. “(This summit) gathers to restart a much-needed drive for sustainable urban transformation.”
But how can six of the world’s leading smart cities teach us to achieve this? How can they help leaders attenuate the oft-justified criticism of a dearth of popular participation, lack of long-term strategy, prioritization of technology over city-dwellers?
Solutions Proposed By World’s Leading Smart Cities
For two years now, we’ve analyzed smart city expressions in Barcelona, Toronto, Singapore, Copenhagen, Vienna and Amsterdam and we are convinced each has unique qualities which can go some way to answering these questions. Their distinctive profiles lead us to nickname them as Copenhagen the Green Growth City, Toronto the Google City, Vienna the Framework City, Singapore the Smart Nation, Amsterdam the Collaborative City and Barcelona the Digital City.
These are obvious simplifications, a bit of a marketing ploy, but the adjectives are indications of the strongest quality each city proposes. Of course, there are also strong resemblances between them. Our 238-page eBook study underlines that all these cities share exemplary policy choices and orientations in terms of mobility, energy saving and citizen participation. Their core objectives are to tackle head-on the challenges of climate change and absorb urban demographic concentration observed these past decades.
How To Maximize Success In Three Lessons
In analyzing the thousands of pages of the cities’ digital platforms and websites, newspaper reports and the IMD World Competitiveness Centre Smart City Index, we conclude that three factors need to converge to maximize chances of success:
- A strong vision developed by the elected representatives in charge of running the city.
- Strong involvement in partnerships with companies to deliver solutions and share value.
- Active collaboration involving different stakeholders, such as the citizens, associations and NGOs, academic institutes, venture capital funds, startups, etc.
The examples that conjugate that three abound, but a couple spring to mind. When faced with major flooding a decade ago, Copenhagen, a city which incarnates the historical global turning point in 2009, set up dynamic collaborations between the municipality and private companies. This persuaded citizen associations to become actively involved in setting up a carbon-neutral city. As a result, the Danish capital has set up a green growth program to stimulate sustainable economic development which is unique around the world.
Then there’s Singapore a small but very wealthy city-state. It set up an efficient administration which dedicates almost every service to apps (we almost nicknamed it App City!). It prioritized data sharing to answer the permanent challenges set by a shortage of natural resources, dependency on exports and a dense population. The comprehensive smart ecosystem authorities built seeks to place citizens at its heart and fosters sustainable development that makes it an attractive hub for businesses and international workers.
Public-private Collaborations Leading The Way
Research still has plenty of avenues to explore in a concept that is barely more than a decade old. The palette of cities investing in technology to drive their sustainability programs is growing apace. Each of these cities are distinctive laboratories because none of them have the same profile or are identical.
We are now keen to study the type of partnerships between private companies and public bodies. For example, we hope to further analyze the effective collaboration established in the 2010s between Siemens AG and Vienna’s City Council and set to be finalized in 2028. The two are partnering up on one of Europe’s biggest urban development projects, Urban Lakeside/Aspern, a greenfield city designed to create 20,000 jobs, an industrial park and a research center. The two have also created new small-scale hydropower plants that are both economically feasible and contributing to a new generation of renewable electrical energy sources.
We feel it is vital to scrutinize such public/private partnerships as possible benchmarks for cities elsewhere. For, the smart city provides a lens through which to look at the city as an ecosystem. The aim of smart city policies is to deliver a new social infrastructure which satisfies both the sustainability prerogatives set out by the United Nations 17 SDGs and the often-legitimate concerns of citizens. These focus on concerns over questions of surveillance in smart cities, the prioritization of technology over citizens and business models based on capital mobility which lead to short-term strategies rather than long-term vision. Leaders in smart city policies should be aware that only collaboration between their many constituencies and stakeholders can alleviate these suspicions and create the common good.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Bertrand Quélin, Isaac Smadja, Daniel Brown
Quelle/Source: Forbes, 10.12.2021