The World's Best Smart Cities Don't Just Adopt New Technology, They Make It Work For People

The World's Best Smart Cities Don't Just Adopt New Technology, They Make It Work For People
Smart city Singapore. Larry Teo/Unsplash., FAL

Cities are fast becoming “smart”, and the impact on people’s lives can be immense. Singapore’s smart traffic cameras restrict traffic depending on volume, and ease the commute of thousands of passengers every day. In Kaunas, Lithuania, the cost of parking is automatically deducted from the bank accounts of drivers when they park their cars. In many cities, the timing of public buses is announced at each stop with almost perfect accuracy. And free WiFi is now accessible across entire cities, including Buenos Aires, Argentina and Ramallah, Palestine.

Today, improving urban services through digital transformation is a huge industry, dominated by the likes of Cisco and IBM. But the idea of a “smart city” encompasses more than the clever application of technology in urban areas. That technology must also contribute to making cities more sustainable, and improving the quality of life for the people who live there.

That’s why a team of researchers from IMD in Switzerland and SUTD in Singapore – including myself – put together the Smart City Index. For the first time, we attempted to assess people’s perceptions of technology – as opposed to the quality of the technology itself – as a way to characterise the “smartness” of a city. We did this by conducting a massive survey among citizens of 102 cities, to assess how favourably they viewed the technology made available to them.

Problems with perceptions

Take Paris, for instance – a city which has embarked on an ambitious project to redesign its urban landscape. The initiative – called Reinventer Paris – started by receiving suggestions from citizens about how to use and renovate obsolete and disused buildings. At the same time, the velib public bike-sharing program introduced about 14,000 bicycles into regular use throughout the city, with the aim of alleviating congestion and reducing pollution.

But five years after its introduction, citizens are still not feeling the benefits. Our smart city index ranks Paris 51st out of 102 cities in the world, in terms of the ability of the city’s technology to improve lives. Our participants from Paris gave their city a low score of 22 out of 100 – where zero indicates total disagreement and 100 signifies complete agreement – in response to the statement that “air pollution is not a problem”. By contrast, citizens of Zurich gave their city a score of 60 in response the same statement.

The World's Best Smart Cities Don't Just Adopt New Technology, They Make It Work For People
Paris haze. Mr Ced/Shutterstock.

And although Reinventer Paris was specifically designed to be a bottom-up, participatory process, Parisians give a score of 36 out of 100 to the statement that “residents provide feedback on local government projects”. By comparison, the city of Auckland received a score of 71 from its residents, putting it in sixth place in the overall ranking.

The global picture

Only to the extent that digital technologies make a meaningful difference to people’s lives, can cities efficiently become smart. Our ranking puts Singapore, Zurich, Oslo, Geneva and Copenhagen in the top five, followed by Auckland, Taipei, Helsinki, Bilbao and Dusseldorf. Cities at the bottom of the ranking are all in developing economies or emerging markets, including Bogota, Cairo, Nairobi, Rabat and Lagos.

We were surprised to find that cities well known globally for their adoption of new technology did not make it to the top of the ranking. This was the case for several cities in China – which have received intensive investment from the Chinese government to increase their access to technology – including Nanjin (ranked 55), Guangzhou (57) and Shanghai (59). Likewise, Tokyo shows up in 62nd position, New York City in 38th and Tel Aviv in 46th place.

Smaller, smarter

Smart cities only make sense when technology meets citizens’ needs. A bike-sharing scheme will only seem useful if the city’s infrastructure facilitates cycling – and believe me, only the brave would dare cross Place Charles de Gaulle in Paris at noon on a bike.

At the same time, people recognise when technology solves a problem, because their lives get better. In an extensive study of 16 cities – published in our new book Sixteen Shades of Smart – we found that Medellin has become a very successful smart city because technology targets citizens’ main problem – safety. Similarly, without massive investment, public WiFi in Ramallah has done more for its people by providing them with access to the outside world in a walled city, than any air pollution monitoring system.

We have also found that large cities and megacities find it difficult to become smart. Most of the cities on the top of our ranking are mid-size cities. It is easy to extend the benefits of technology to people in San Francisco (ranked number 12 with a population of 884,000) and Bilbao (ninth, with a population of 350,000); but it is much more difficult to do the same in Los Angeles (35th, population of 4m) and Barcelona (48th, population of 5.5m).

There are 29 cities in the world with a population of more than 10m (including their metropolitan area), and that’s expected to grow to 43 by 2030. The differences between cities – even those in the same country – will continue to grow, as leaders seek out digital solutions to urban problems. But the real test will be whether citizens feel the benefits.The Conversation

About the Author

Arturo Bris, Professor of Finance, International Institute for Management Development (IMD)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

books_technology

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

green energy2 3
Four Green Hydrogen Opportunities for the Midwest
by Christian Tae
To avert a climate crisis, the Midwest, like the rest of the country, will need to fully decarbonize its economy by…
ug83qrfw
Major Barrier to Demand Response Needs to End
by John Moore, On Earth
If federal regulators do the right thing, electricity customers across the Midwest may soon be able to earn money while…
trees to plant for climate2
Plant These Trees To Improve City Life
by Mike Williams-Rice
A new study establishes live oaks and American sycamores as champions among 17 “super trees” that will help make cities…
north sea sea bed
Why We Must Understand Seabed Geology To Harness The Winds
by Natasha Barlow, Associate Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change, University of Leeds
For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net…
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.