Sixteen Shades of Smart - Preview

28 Sixteen shades of smart

Cities with lower levels of GDP per capita have typically pursued smart projects by employing a top-down approach. Thus, smart initiatives that focus on basic amenities (such as Ramallah’s online classrooms for students who cannot leave their homes, or the basic safety and anti-corruption measures implemented by Medellin) are provided as a result of decisions made at the highest levels of local government (typically mayors). In contrast, cities that are characterized by high GDP per capita tend to rely more on bottom- up (citizen-driven) and crowdsourced alternatives. However, a top-down approach can be also found in high GDP per capital cities like Dubai and Singapore. A common element in all the cases studied is the decision by local governments to employ information technology to provide services to the inhabitants of a city. Thus, the e-government component is widely used by all the cities we studied. The final point relates to the data and information available. All the cities we studied provide information about the initiatives and projects they undertake. From detailed websites, or through sharing reports, the narratives were readily available, either from websites managed by local authorities, or in dedicated websites related to specific smart initiatives. On the other hand, it was more difficult to get hard data on the projects. There were instances, as the reader will encounter in the cases, where detailed information was available and others where measurements were more difficult to find. Significantly, what all the cases lacked, was the evaluation of the projects by the beneficiaries of the provisions – the residents of the cities. 4 The same holds for the different rankings we have studied concerning smart cities. We have not found an index that measures residents’ satisfaction of the smart provisions, and this may be one differentiator of a future index. The chapters in this book provide a detailed account of 16 cities around the globe and their efforts to make the lives of their residents better. Reading through the cases, we invite you to keep the big picture in mind: cities are socio-technical systems that provide goods and services to their residents. Revolutionary and rapidly changing information technology allows for the amelioration and multiplication of services. The important question to be addressed is how city authorities will satisfy the various multiple stakeholders involved in the processes: local and national governmental authorities, private technology providers, international organizations, and residents. This book is a first attempt to offer us a better understanding of the unit of analysis: the smart city.

4  The only partial exception is the city of Medellín for which there is a survey conducted by an interinstitutional entity founded in 2006 (Medellin Cómo Vamos: The survey covers areas such as health, employment, culture, sports and transportation. Yet, the organization is not associated with any smart city project or initiative.

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