This study critically analyses the term smart city taking into account how the term is used by practitioners and policy-makers across the EU and within individual countries over time. Harnessing quantitative and qualitative data visualization approaches, this work reports in detail on the geographical coverage, scale and project content of EU smart city projects.
According to the authors, the narrative used to describe smart cities, including the experimentation on them, affects the perception of the smart city. Using a bibliographic analysis, including word frequency analyses across time and countries of project descriptions, the authors identify the dominant themes and constructs in the smart city narratives used by teams advancing smart city projects.
The analysis leads to the conclusion that the main concern of public-facing smart city narratives in the EU is on energy. More specifically, results for the term ‘˜energy’ are pivotal whether on a country level or on a multinational setting.
According to the study, over the time-period 2008’“2010 there seems to have been an explicit attempt to reshape the smart policy narrative towards more IT-related projects in partial response to the financial crisis, where the environmental discourse is clearly shown to have been relatively reined in or relaxed. Based on the sample of projects considered in this study, this trend was not apparent in the subsequent subsample (post 2010) where energy is the most used term in the smart city narrative. According to the evidence derived from smart city project data in the EU, the authors conclude that in practical terms ‘˜smart cities’ have overwhelmingly developed into a trope for city project-level energy policies and energy focused project developments
They argue that the actual implementation and narrative on smart cities to which the general public has immediate (e.g. via a Google search) access shows a narrow view, being mainly focused on the ‘˜energy’ dimension.
This study concludes that policy-makers should aim for better alignment of smart cities’ narrative with citizens’ perception or, at least, a wider description of the very nature of implemented projects to include those rather neglected aspects might attract more interest and citizens’ involvement.
You can find the paper here.