Digital (smart) technologies are key enablers in achieving the goal of smart, sustainable cities and communities. Digital transformation is about reinvention of business and management practices. Smart Cities have innovation at its core, with the focus in the past decade being consistently on digital technologies.
However, a paradigm shift has been occurring recently that expands the Smart City concept from a purely technology and infrastructure focused to a more holistic approach, which encompasses the social, cultural, environmental and financing aspects to enable broad experimentation aimed at localised problem solving. Success in this approach relies heavily on managing disruptive change.
The urbanisation trend
Over half of the world’s population has been living in cities since 2007, and that share is projected to rise to 60 per cent by 2030. Although cities and metropolitan areas are drivers of economic growth, contributing about 60 per cent of global GDP, they also account for about 70 per cent of
global carbon emissions and over 60 per cent of resource use.
Cities face significant environmental pressures and infrastructure challenges, such as traffic congestion, pollution, unsustainable use of energy and other resources, ineffective waste management, unaffordable housing, etc., alongside increasing demands from residents to deliver
better services and quality of life at a sustainable cost.
The governance challenge
Governments are beginning to realise that successful Smart City projects depend on leadership, stakeholder coordination and citizen engagement. Intelligent deployment of digital technologies can help create new patterns of mobility; living and working between larger urban centres, the peripheries and hinterland. Digital technologies present an opportunity for reinvention of city management, growth and resilience.
The high population density could benefit from innovative options that could lead to efficient health management, cleaner environment, greener mobility, and higher value jobs. To be successful, however, there is a need to correctly define the role of the different stakeholders in the
cities’ digital transformation, so that they can leverage their available capacities and resources to ensure the collective engagement of the local digital ecosystem.
Building new transformative models
This 21st century trend of merging industries, where technology is no longer a mere supporting function, needs multi-competent individuals capable of creative problem solving. Focusing on value for citizens in Smart City initiatives would help deliver more effective solutions to local
issues which can be replicated globally.
A quote attributed to John F. Kennedy states that change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. The inevitable digital transformation could be used to generate engaged, empowered and “smart” citizens who would contribute positively
towards their local and global communities.