Smart People

 

A city isn't smart because it uses technology. A city is smart because it uses technology to make its citizens' lives better. This chapter focuses on the "secret sauce" that turns the idea of a smart city into reality – the people who live in the city, who work in the city and the people who have hopes and dreams for the kind of city they will leave for future generations.

Not so many years ago the idea of a smartwatch you could listen to music on or monitor your heart rate with would have seemed far-fetched. And using your smartphone to find a parking spot and pay for it? Or a contactless card that means no more waiting in lines for tokens when you ride the subway?

Too often smart technologies are portrayed as a means to streamline, optimize, integrate, digitalize, systematize, consolidate and otherwise improve infrastructure. And that's certainly a part of what smart ciites are about. As more and more people move to urban centers and strain often inadequate or aging infrastructure, optimizing, integrating and the like become essential if cities are going to provide their citizens with basic needs -- energy, water and shelter among them.

 

But too often that citizen focus is not underscored often or loudly enough by well-meaning city leaders struggling to find affordable solutions to pressing urban problems.

This chapter will focus on how to bring all city stakeholders together to develop a vision for the city they want to live in – and the one they want their children and grandchildren to live in. It's about listening; about reaching out; about education and oftentimes it's about a new mindset at city hall that is more open, more transparent and more focused on inclusion.

For example, does your idea of listening to citizens consist of giving people a few minutes to speak during public meetings? And are they invited to speak only after you've nearly finalized your plans? If this is how your city "listens," you probably aren't hearing what is really important to your constituents – nor are you hearing from a truly broad cross-section of your city's population. And your projects may well suffer as a result.In this chapter we'll discuss a new mindset and showcase some of the exciting and innovative ways smart cities are building two-way communications with their citizens and creating stronger initiatives as a result. But first, let's underscore some of the ways information and communication technologies (ICT) are improving citizens' lives in very deep and personal ways.