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Smart Cities should focus on People, not Technology

While a lot of buzz in smart cities is about the impressive, cutting-edge technology, the crucial component which makes them smart should be the emphasis on their citizens. The technology should be invisible, seamlessly embedded in the environment to serve real human needs. If the sole focus of a smart city is the technology, then the project is doomed to fail.

These were among the remarks made in a Westminster eForum policy conference which took place in February, and reported and discussed by Chris Middleton on Diginomica. One half of the event was on how to support innovation, collaboration, and development, in the smart city context.

Figures show that the concentration of people in large urban centers increases economic productivity, with 60% of global GDP rooted in just 600 cities. This offers a major incentive for smart city development, but as cities grow they reach a tipping point where the urban environment can cause more harm than good, so these initiatives have to focus on people and be more human-centric. This is in contrast to the common tendency for policy makers to discuss platforms, products, and concepts rather than how to make cities better places for people.

The question, then, is how can smart city programmes make citizens, not technology, their focus? According to Middleton, the UN’ s Sustainable Development Goals can be used as a guide for this, giving a rough but accurate picture of what citizens actually want from their cities. The connection with the Sustainable Development Goals has thankfully emerged on various recent conferences, and can be interpreted as a positive sign that this global initiative is being taken seriously by  thought leaders and senior executives, even if policymakers in most cases tend to emphasise productivity above all else.

The full article can be found on Diginomica.