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Smart Cities: A Beneficial Project

Last modified: 2022-12-01 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

Cynthia Pigeon

The growing number of urban residents from diverse cultural backgrounds is prompting cities to rethink how they manage various public spheres.

The concept of the "smart city" came about a few years ago to improve public services and curb negative impacts caused by ever-increasing population sizes.

Smart Cities: Quick Overview 

Simply put, a smart city has a positive impact on the community, fosters local development, and reduces the ecological footprint. These ideals are tailored to each community and the initiatives being implemented are achievable with the help of collected data and advanced technologies.

To ensure the long-term sustainability of a community, one must reconsider urban development in terms of the quality of life and governance transparency. By using information communication technology tools, consistency between all services and active participation by citizens, businesses, and elected officials is far more attainable. Relying on accurate information regarding the daily use of public structures and services allows for innovative solutions based on real and verified needs.

The Makings of a Smart City

There are as many battles to fight as there are cities when it comes to creating smart communities. Nevertheless, they all result in a single objective: development.

Since a truly smart city is unlikely, and all cities are looking at different aspects to establish their overall strategy, there's no standard set of guidelines. Nevertheless, three key factors come to light when faced with this goal. These main points are the economy, the environment, and the social dimension. However, each city initiates its efforts according to its specific circumstances and the needs of its population.

This is logical, as no two cities have the same core infrastructure, size, history, financial resources, citizen age demographics, and so on. For example, one city will benefit from reducing its carbon footprint by implementing eco-friendly roofs and offering local amenities, while a neighbouring city will focus on improving citizen interactions through digital means.

smart city

Source: Flickr

Economic Aspect

Several potential solutions are consistent with the vision of a forward-thinking city. Among these potential solutions are, just to name a few:

  • Financial or other support for local businesses;
  • Linking participants at all stages of a project (researchers, manufacturers, merchants, investors, etc.);
  • Variety of training offered to students;
  • Incentives to draw in companies with ethical practices;
  • Digital upgrades for existing businesses to save money and improve workplace safety.

Social Aspect

A city connected with its citizens understands the new realities around which they revolve. However, to be inclusive, community leaders will have to be determined to find a way to create partnerships between public and private institutions and residents. Without the solidarity of citizens and genuine communication, municipal services may fail to mirror the population and, under the guise of good intentions, the divide will remain. A so-called smart city favours the use of collective intelligence, precisely to benefit itself.

Moreover, a transparent administration results in a better quality of life and a shared sense of trust. Not only does this affect decision-making and project effectiveness, but also the city's capability when it comes to tackling a potentially problematic situation.

Here again, technology can be used to improve community involvement. It can be as simple as creating a platform where people can access information regarding local news, upcoming projects and events. People could also give their opinion, register for classes, fill out surveys, report a problem, request permits, and so forth.

What’s more, law enforcement agencies could have access to certain digital data to ensure civilian protection.

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Environmental Aspect

Managing water and heat islands is complex on many different levels and involves various parties. To sum it up, whether municipalities employ solutions such as blue roofs or incentives to reduce water consumption, or hire engineers to redesign entire structures, they’re all related to the objectives established by a smart city.

Naturally, there are various and sundry ways to help the planet. Amongst other things, a city can establish laws or requirements which must be met during new construction or renovation projects. Cities can create urban developments that feature plenty of green spaces and functional roadways where proximity to resources and public transit converge.

Smart cities can collect data concerning energy use and thus adapt their services accordingly, decide where to establish select infrastructures, or better allocate their budgets to tackle environmental issues. Community gardens can be created with collective compost bins... the possibilities are virtually endless.

eco-friendly roof

Source: Flickr

A Few Examples of Smart Cities
  1. Mitchell, South Dakota: Emphasis on the use of digital technology in all areas, especially education.
  2. Christchurch City in South Island, New Zealand: Offers an innovative urban living environment, is attentive to the needs of citizens and has established a window portal for shared knowledge.
  3. Feldheim, Germany: Fully self-sufficient community in terms of energy due to their use of wind turbines, solar panels, and a biogas plant.
  4. Copenhagen, Denmark: Aiming to be carbon neutral by 2025.

In closing, as with any project that entails a lot of technology, there's ongoing debate and opinions concerning ethical issues, democratic integrity and privacy. Yet, smart cities remain focused on a vision that advocates:

  • Improving quality of life without stunting development;
  • Social well-being while protecting dignity;
  • Equality and inclusivity among the various parties involved in urban life, perhaps a participatory democracy;
  • Benefits outweighing negatives, such as costs;
  • ISO standards (infrastructure efficiency);
  • Information and communications technology.

For more information, check out this document (French only).

Cover image source: Pixabay

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