Urenio Watch Watch: Intelligent Cities / Smart Cities

Information Systems and Smarter Cities

Smart city initiatives around the global seek to leverage information technology to preserve and improve quality of urban life. This paper presents first insights from interviews with municipal stakeholders from European cities that currently undergo smart city transformations. Building upon their responses, an initial framework is developed for information systems research within a smart city context and outline research implications for the discipline.

This initial framework will subsequently be refined through an alignment process that iteratively updates the framework with feedback from stakeholders’”not just representatives from municipalities, but also industry representatives, policymakers, regulators, and citizens’”and from IS (Information Systems) scholars through conference, workshop, and seminar discussions.

Insights from Stakeholder Interviews

Following an explorative critical success factors (CSF) inquiry, a series of interviews with city representatives, involved in the coordination of the first set of projects funded through the EU’ s Horizon 2020 Smart Cities and Communities call, were conducted. Specifically, six open questions served to initiate an open discussion on experiences and insights the interviewees had collected through these and other projects in their cities. The responses from each question provided different perspectives as presented below:

Question 1: What is a smart city?

  • A smart city is a city that has become better at meeting the needs of its citizens, particular in a world with accelerating technological progress.
  • Municipal administrations need to improve management by working across departments instead of a single-minded focus on one’ s own objectives.
  • Critical is the involvement of citizens within the communities enabling them to use smart technologies and contribute to the smart city transformation.
  • Regarding resource perspective, sustainable and efficient use of limited resources is recommended as well as empowered citizens as a resource for such smart transformations

Question 2: How will you know when your city is smart?

  • Through online applications. For instance, a company in Eindhoven developed a smartphone app that allows the users to improve the overall quality of life in the city and document these improvements offering a measurement of the success of the smart city transformation.
  • Moreover, the nature of a smart city transformation, is described as a process, not a project. This process is represented by iterative improvement cycles and seeks to build up a capacity or resources within the city to carry out smartness on a daily basis.

Question 3: What are the critical success factors for creating a smart city?

  • An administration without barriers, following holistic approaches to smart city projects.
  • City transformations supported by all stakeholders within the city’“citizens, businesses, and municipal employees.
  • Technical infrastructure, including broadband, connected devices, and data hubs.
  • Transparency and empowerment, through open government and open data.

A second set of questions including:

  • What means have you identified for making your city smart?
  • What are some minor changes that a city can make that would improve smartness?
  • What are major changes that a city can make to create major a change in smartness?

The recommendations derived:

  • Policy changes within the municipal administration that enable cross-sectorial work need to be implemented.
  • The city needs to build up an adequate IT infrastructure, both within the administration and within the city as a whole.
  • Project selection should involve citizens and follow their most pressing needs.
  • The city needs to be opened as an experimental place where new ideas are tested, initially within a small testbed part of the city and subsequently scaled up if successful.

Developing an Initial Framework

The interview responses provide first insights on the current state of smart city transformations and how IS research can support this process. Based on these, an initial framework is proposed that combines the two different approaches of cities from a modelling perspective. First, a resource-based view of the cities refers to the various types of resources a smart city can rely on, including all forms of capital, such as built, human and natural capital. The ecosystem view, on the other hand, provides insights on the stakeholders within the city’”the city administration, businesses, and residents, but also, for instance, commuters. The research framework also considers the anticipated outcome or the stated objective of a given smart city initiative since preserving and improving quality of life.

Implications for the Discipline and Outlook

The most forceful theme noted during the interviews was the common orientation of smart city initiatives towards a specific goal: preserving and improving the quality of life of the people in the city. However, a strong push for technically focused research and development, as well as social and economic implications and ethical issues need to be explored when introducing smart city technologies.

You can read the paper here.