Sixteen Shades of Smart - Preview

21 Sixteen shades of smart

Europe (UNECE) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) suggested a definition that integrated these two strands: the “smart sustainable city,” which is “an innovative city that uses ICTs and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental as well as cultural aspects.” 2 Irrespective of the attempts to find a more inclusive designation for smart cities, there is currently no universally accepted definition of what they are or should be. There are different reasons for this; Neirotti et al. (2014) suggest that the ambiguity arises because the term attempts to incorporate “hard,” tangible aspects, like energy grids, transportation and public security, and “soft,” intangible dimensions like social inclusion, welfare and culture. Alternatively, Finger and Razaghi (2017) point out that the numerous urban studies in existence reveal a disciplinary shortsightedness depending on authors’ academic affiliations: sociologists, urban planners, architects, economists and information systems scholars, among others, have contributed to the debate, each from their own academic point of view. In approaching the study of smart cities, we adopt Razaghi and Finger’s (2018) understanding that cities are socio-technical systems where technology can expand the quality of and the number of goods and services available to the city’s residents. In this way, the basic framework becomes much broader, and shields our approach from the limitations of any narrow or mono-dimensional definition. Listening to cities With the clear exception of Ramallah, the cities chosen are self-identified as smart, and generally considered so by most definitions and previous rankings. They have designed smart initiatives and have implemented smart projects. In working with the cases, however, we did not assume a specific definition of smartness. Instead, we let each city command its own narrative on why it believes that it is smart. In this way, we avoided confronting them with any externally imposed “ideal” definition of what a smart city is or should be. By letting cities dictate the narrative, we accepted their own interpretation of smartness. We allowed each city to define the challenges it wants to tackle, clarify the technology it utilizes to address these issues, and identify the ingredients of “smartness” it chooses to introduce. The exact definition of “smart” employed by each city may be different, yet, the common element is that cities utilize technology to improve the lives of their residents. In doing so, each urban setting focuses on the elements that are more problematic and relevant to it. Those elements range from

2 See, accessed May 13, 2019.

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