Denver - Berlin

Why Are Smart Cities Not Smart?

One size fits all approach will not make cities smarter

What role should governments and large tech corporations play in the development of smart cities?

Smart city programs cannot be defined by a single “top down” approach or central organizing schema that sets pre-programmed limits. They will be defined by individual citizens, who are motivated to collaborate with each other — to create new use cases and applications that solve specific local problems.  Smart cities will be places that foster creativity, where citizens are generators of ideas, services and solutions, rather than subservient and passive recipients of them.  Lack of vision, incomplete alliance networks, along with technical barriers, have kept a range of technology suppliers from taking a more active and central role in smart city market development.

An increasing number of cities are recognizing the value of user collaboration and are putting programs in place to foster smart systems innovation
» Global cities are actively pursuing the convergence of smart information and communication technologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government systems and services but are they enabling citizens?
» Too much investment in infrastructure and not enough in collaboration, particularly with users and citizens, won’t make cities any smarter.

A growing number of open data initiatives are driving citizen participation and collaboration to create new solutions 

» Smart cities are not fixed systems that can be easily be automated or defined by a few infrastructure applications.  They will be defined by individual citizens, who are anxious to collaborate with each other — to create new use cases and applications that solve specific real world problems.

» Top-down strategic approaches to sustainability, citizen well-being and economic development focus on the city as a monolithic entity; open data and collaborative interactions are required to really enable citizen engagement and involvement.

Corporations and governments certainly have a major role to play in the smart city – by making data openly available for developers to build upon — but they must also make it easy for citizens themselves to create and contribute their own data.  Hence, governments and technology partners have an important enabling role to play with fostering infrastructure, common frameworks, open network standards and data formats.

The “smartness” of smart cities will not be driven by orders coming from the unseen central government computers of science fiction, dictating the population’s actions from afar. Rather, smart cities will be smart because their citizens have found new ways to craft, interlink and make sense of their own data.

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December 8, 2016