In the making of a smart city, vision comes before technology
Did you know that, in about 30 years from now, 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas? Well, at least looking at data from the United Nations, now we definitely know it – and it’s not a trend that has gone undercover so far. As the core of economic growth and generation of wealth keeps shifting towards cities, exactly the way it already happened in parallel with the industrial and technological revolutions of the past, urban agglomerations witness significant and progressive increases in the number of residents. The question is how much should we actually be worried about this trend? And this concern does not matter only here at Ridango, but it calls to action both public and private.
If cities change together with society and the economy, and follow the lead either directly or indirectly given by innovation, then we can keep sleeping soundly. However, public decision makers and private actors must be able to reverse such mechanism, establishing priorities in the roadmap towards the making of a smart city. Visions come first, only then we can start talking about technology.
Service development is driven by needs, and technology enables private and public actors to design services to be more efficient and effective in addressing the demands of citizens. And though the whole concept of smart city is based on the implementation of technological innovations in all spheres of urban life, the way this change is supposed to take place cannot be separated from the creation of a strategic plan to make our cities smarter because citizens need them to do so.
The topic of smart cities is, beyond the hype, an interesting one for Ridango. We’re all ears, as all municipalities and companies should be, at least among the ones truly committed to the application of solutions designed to be future-proof. The current theme puts us at the heart of the debate on smart cities in two dimensions – one regarding the possible approaches driving the change, and one based on the foundational elements of a truly smart city.
An interesting study from Canada, for example, aimed to explore these two trajectories providing a useful framework to understand lines of thoughts, words, and deeds, contributing to the making of a smart city. Though the concept of “smart” has emerged in relatively recent times in urbanism, it has very often been paired with two other ways to conceive cities – as “intelligent”, and “creative”. These two models represent competing views towards improving the liveability of a city:
– in the intelligent city, the approach to development happens in a top-down manner, and mainly municipalities carry the burden of understanding how to make technology work for residents, and implement new solutions
– in the creative city, the process of change takes place through a bottom-up dynamic, with initiatives coming from communities, the private sector, projects of social entrepreneurship or designed by urban laboratories.
In both cases, however, shortcomings may occur: intelligent planning may exclude some key players or stakeholders by being based solely on the public sector’s vision, while in creative cities the lack of a coordinated planning may result in vanishing the expected effects of noble, grassroot initiatives. A smart model, instead, is based on integrated and participatory planning where a city manages to merge the ideas and needs of public actors with the capabilities and know-how of private sector players, all in an IT-based urban ecosystem. In order to reach their goals, smart cities rely on public-private partnerships, and establish a fruitful cooperation between formal and market entities to move towards the same goal – improving citizens’ livelihood in an urban space.
The second dimension we mentioned regards, instead, those elements that need to smart up for the city of the future to be the way we want it:
- people, increasing knowledge and social capital
- governance, enhancing digital services and transparency
- environment, investing in sustainability
- living, intervening on social cohesion, safety, and overall life quality
- mobility, shifting from individual to collective means of transportation, with the latter made more efficient by the extensive use of ICT tools.
How would you feel if everything around you is digital and smooth, but then hopping on a bus you can’t just use your bank card or a mobile phone to get a ticket? Or also, why should commuting to your cosy home turn into an odyssey, because there’s no updated information on when the bus or tram will arrive? The answer is simple – it is frustrating, and it shouldn’t be that way.
All smart cities cannot be built and designed in the same way, as diversity of contexts is reflected in the difference of approaches. But the process that gets us closer to the goal is clear, and it passes through the cooperation between local governments with great ideas, and tech-savvy companies like Ridango driven by innovation and by the will to make services work seamlessly for everyone. Our mission is to give you the tools to make a new idea of city come to life. There’s no one-size-fits all to get there, but finding a partner that sees the future the way you do is already a good place to start.