Citizens are the heart of any Smart City

Citizens are the heart of any Smart City

Governments talk about them, the private sector wants to build them and citizens want to live in them but what is a Smart City? IBM described a Smart City as one, “that makes optimal use of all the interconnected information available today to better understand and control its operations and optimise the use of limited resources”.

In reality, this definition means different things to different cities. The priorities of one city will vary across continents and citizen requirements. In London, a high priority may be given to air pollution and multi-modal travel whereas in Singapore we would expect land use and planning to be high on the agenda. What all cities have in common, however, is they are a container for citizens that have four core needs: Goods and services coming into a city, waste going out, improving living conditions and well being. The role of the public and private sector is to understand the maturity of city infrastructure and data, assess the status of core citizen needs, and to work with citizens to define a Smart City roadmap.

Last year the Institute of Engineering & Technology conducted a survey of citizens. In the report that followed “Smart Cities – Time to involve the people”, IET revealed that roughly two in ten (18%) of the population had heard of a ‘Smart City’. Only 15% saw value in real-time travel information on a smartphone, compared to 23% who saw value in sensors embedded in roads and buildings which measure traffic flow and predict congestion.

Smart City roadmaps are key to continuous improvement in an ever-changing environment. Roadmaps should look beyond Government cycles, both at local and central levels, and look to influence policy across all Government departments. They should reach deep and wide into strategic thinking, influencing procurement and be “the big picture” for local government when making any decisions on spending.  Roadmaps should be governed by stakeholders at local, national and international levels, bringing together public, private and citizen groups. There is nothing smart about delivering services that citizens do not want, or in the wrong priority order.
Be smart, talk to your citizens as they will define your Smart City and help you democratise data and infrastructure.

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