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Rethinking Smart Cities

Cities using digital technologies to engage and enable citizens.

new york

Successful smart cities of the future will combine the best aspects of technology infrastructure whilst maximising the growing potential of collaborative technologies, according to a new report by UK innovation organisation Nesta.

The Rethinking Smart Cities from the Ground Up report explores how cities around the world are using digital technologies to engage and enable citizens.

New digital technologies are leading to the emergence of four new methods helping city governments engage and enable citizens: the collaborative economy, crowdsourcing data, collective intelligence and crowdfunding, the report finds.

“A new set of methods, powered by smartphones, the growing preference for online transactions, low–cost hardware and peer–to– peer technologies are enabling cities to work with citizens to find smarter ways to use resources, collect data and make decisions”, the report states.

The report suggests that previous smart city initiatives were “too focused on finding uses for new technologies rather than finding technologies that can solve pressing problems”, and suggests that cites are seeking out solutions that “involve the public in both shaping technologies and implementing them; solutions that are cheaper and more modular; and they are seeking out evidence instead of hype”.

Some of the examples of how cites are using collaborative technologies to address urban challenges, and shape the future of cities include:

  •  Jakarta using crowdsourced floodmaps based on twitter data
  • Boston’s crowd sourced data from mobile phones to identify bumps in the road
  • Glasgow’s implemention of smart street lights
  • Beijing using crowd sourced data to create map of indoor air pollution
  • Seoul, South Korea is encouraging sharing through the Sharing City Seoul initiative
  • Santander, Spain using worlds largest city-wide sensor network for decision making
  • Reykjavik, Iceland residents propose, debate and vote on ideas to improve city online
  • Paris’s ‘Madame Mayor, I have an idea’ participatory budgeting process

The report identifies five recommendations for a people-centred smart city vision:

  1. Set up a civic innovation lab to drive innovation in collaborative technologies.
  2. Use open data and open platforms to mobilise collective knowledge.
  3. Take human behaviour as seriously as technology.
  4. Invest in smart people, not just smart technology.
  5. Spread the potential of collaborative technologies to all parts of society.

Read the full report.