Smart city in context (1): Competitiveness (Part 2): citizens

[Versión en castellano]

SmartCity TagsIn principle, the smart city should be paradise for citizens. But so far, in practice, they have had little to do with its definition. In fact, most of them declare to ignore the meaning of this concept. However, it is also true that in the Smart City Expo & World Congress in Barcelona last November, it was possible to detect a stronger trend to include citizens opinions when developing this concept.

In any case, in line with previous articles on this blog, I think that there is a strong link between  the smart city concept and competitiveness from the citizens’ point of view yet. So, as a citizen I am also, the more I would like to live in a particular city, the smarter it is for me. And I think this is -or should be- the criteria to be used by those responsible for urban management when deciding to make theirs a smart city.

Thus, from citizens’ standpoint, cities must compete for its quality of life, environmental sustainability, the quality of its outputs, its ability to attract talent, the good relationship between the cost of life and the benefits received, the opportunities for personal and professional development, the transparency in its management, … These are, in my view, the real parameters that citizens will use to evaluate how smart a city is.

And if we agree in this, we will do also in that from the citizen’s point of view, technology is the means but not the goal in the smart city. The citizen doesn’t worry about who is the technology supplier nor how the technology works. What the citizen really needs is to feel that his day to day living is the best possible one. Therefore, no smart city is possible if citizens are dissatisfied. We can set up as high and as much technology as we want . But unsafe cities, or cities with high unemployment rates, or with little opportunity for personal and professional development, can make talking about smart city a sarcasm, except in the case it is an option for solving these problems, in the first instance .

ColaborandoIn exchange for getting these things from their smart city (quality of life, etc.), citizens are willing to co-operate. They are obviously the most interested in having the most competitive city in these areas. We all know many examples of this citizens’ co-operation: from car drivers who send free, real-time information on the traffic conditions they meet, to those reporting incidents of all kinds in the streets, to help for a faster repair. There are many others. And every entrepreneur having developed such a collaborative environment always states the same thing: people put all their effort into profuse and loyal collaboration provided that a) they are treated with respect and are not deceived, and b) they perceive they are contributing to something valuable for their community. Therefore, it is sensible to count on this citizens’ collaboration to build a smart city. Moreover, urban managers, service providers, technology companies, and citizens themselves should give all possible measures and actions within their scope to make cities really smart.

Notice also that, in the smart city, citizens can co-operate not only as sources of information, but also as full-fledged entrepreneurs, developing very different activities to help generate competitive advantage for their cities.

In a previous post of this series, we talked about competitiveness in the smart cities as to companies of different kind (ICT and urban services providers). The present post deals with this competitiveness from the citizen’s point of view. The next post will go into the concept of smart cities competitiveness related to the leaders in charge of the city administration.

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