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14 Jun 16


Traditionally, smart city advocates have emphasised hardware - the internet of things, 'big data' and advanced computing - over the needs of people and the challenges they face living in cities. They have also emphasised marketing and promotion at the expense of hard evidence and testing solutions out in the real world. As a result, many smart city ideas have failed to deliver on their promise, combining high costs and low returns.

Many city governments are now trying to put this right, to reap the full potential of new digital technologies while not repeating the mistakes of the past. They are looking for answers 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.

This might involve technologies that allow governments to crowdsource data like PetaJakarta, which used flood reports on Twitter to create a crowdsourced map of flooding in the city. Or it might be tools that help citizens influence decision-making in the city, such as the Mayor of Paris’ participatory budgeting initiative, which not only crowdsources ideas for the development of Paris but gives citizens the right to decide which of them are implemented. Or it could be about using digital tools to create a more collaborative economy, one that is about shared access to resources rather than ownership, something which cities around the world from Seoul to Amsterdam are trying to do. Efforts like these were a key element of Nesta’s 'Rethinking Smart Cities from the Ground Up' report, published last year.

Successful smart cities of the future will combine the best aspects of technology infrastructure while making the most of the growing potential of these 'collaborative technologies' to enable greater collaboration between urban communities and between citizens and city governments. Only by doing this will these cities of the future be places that we can call truly smart.

Tom Saunders, Senior Researcher, International Innovation at Nesta

Blue Skies speaker

Session name: 'What Makes a City Smart?'

Time/Date: 10.15 - 11.15am, 29th June


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