Smart cities mean different things to different people. To some, a smart city is a municipality that uses digital technology to increase operational efficiency and improve its citizens’ welfare. To some others, a smart city is a city where everybody is a possessor of a smartphone. This goes to show that the concept of a smart city is relative and dependent on the level of development and the citizens.
Scholars, city developers, and scientists have attempted to develop a series of indices and indicators that point towards a universally accepted meaning of a smart city. This is necessitated by the desire to have a quantifiable means of identifying a smart city. It goes without saying that investors, commerce and talents are drawn to smart cities. And it has created a need to produce parameters through which a city can be deemed smart and suitable for sustainable living. These parameters are called Smart City Indices and indicators.
Smart City Indicators
In terms of a smart city, there are six (6), universally accepted indicators for cities moving towards becoming a smart community. These indicators were first developed by Prof. Rudolf Giffinger of the European Smart Cities research group at the Centre of Regional Science, Vienna University of Technology. It was later adopted by a well-known urban strategist, Dr. Boyd Cohen. The indicators provide a holistic approach towards becoming a smart city; they are:
- Smart Government
- Smart Economy
- Smart Environment
- Smart Living
- Smart People
- Smart Mobility
Although other researchers have come up with many other indicators, these are the most encompassing. They strike a balance between the need for smart cities to be both human-centric and technology-centric. As we discuss them individually, you will discover that majority of these indicators are interrelated:
1. Smart Governance:
Smart Governance bothers itself with how the government of a city interacts with the populace. It involves using new technology to create a balanced up-down and bottom-top interface between a municipal government and its stakeholder. Stakeholders here refers to not just citizens but also the businesses and all other organizations and infrastructure within the city. This indicator points to all instruments and modern technology employed by governments in serving its people. This is called the “city as a service” model, which maximizes efficiency, transparency, and trust between a municipal government and the state.
2. Smart Economy
Smart Economy refers to all activities geared towards improving and strengthening economic activities within the community. The most crucial aim here is to make the city more business-friendly for SMEs, investors, multinationals, businesses, and talents. Thus, building a sustainable and growing economy. In a 21st century city, the concept of a smart economy can only be actualized by utilizing digital, information, and communication technology. The majority of businesses today are becoming digitalized; thus, the government is laden with the responsibility of creating an environment conducive to smart business growth. With increased economic activities comes the creation of more jobs, an increase in innovation, and a better quality of life for her citizens.
3. Smart Environment
This is how a city utilizes technology to manage both its artificial and natural environment, to ensure sustainable living for its inhabitants. The smart environment involves subcategories such as; waste management, pollution control, water consumption control, emission control, reduction in consumed energy, and renewable energy use. The fundamental idea is to provide a conducive working and living environment for man and beast within the municipality. Sustainable living in a smart environment can be achieved by using modern technology to ensure a regulated change in policy and practices by both the government and its people.
4. Smart Living
Smart living is synonymous with a better quality of life. The goal is to create all-inclusive livability and improved living conditions for all and sundry within the city, through the instrumentality of technology-powered institutions. It provides a broad chain of subcategories that affect the lives of the citizens. It ranges from improved healthcare, security and safety, increased social and digital connectivity, sustainable living better housing conditions, to smart buildings.
5. Smart Mobility
Transportation is not left out, since it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that it provides faster, cheaper, environmentally-friendly, and more convenient means of mobility for its populace. Smart mobility extends beyond public means of transportation, but also stretches to cover both private means of transport. It also involves adopting new modes of transportation such as electric cars and buses, bike and car pools, and electric trains. It also includes anything and everything that eases the mobility of goods and people within the city.
6. Smart People
This category has two focal points. First, it focuses on bringing smarter means of interaction between citizens. The second focus centers on facilitating more intelligent and more futuristic education geared towards providing more career paths for all regardless of age, gender, or class. Smart People will bring about increased productivity, innovation, and inclusive prosperity in the city.
Smart City Indexes
In straightforward terms, an index refers to a series of measured indicators that help in giving a centered view to a multifaceted system. Indices are used to get a measured and fixed overview into a system, and can be used as parameters for classing such systems or determining their level of progress. Indicators refer to various factors taken into consideration when weighing a system. By nature, indicators point to various parameters. It is with indices that we galvanize these composite parameters, measure them, and produce a mathematically accurate way of determining which indicators are most responsible for driving the system.
There has been a proliferation of smart city indexes (SCIs) by different research institutes in recent times. Unfortunately, these indexes produce different results, and by extension, different ranking scales. Whilst some promote cities with technologically advanced programs. Some others have placed a premium on the use of people-centric technological advancement.
On the side of technological advancement, there are research works such as the IESE City in Motion Index (CIMI), Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index, and the UNECE United Smart Cities. The most prominent people-centered indexes are the IMD Business School Smart City Index, first released in 2019, and the Juniper Research Global City Performance Index, 2017.
Under the IESE CIMI, cities such as London, New York, Amsterdam, Paris, Reykjavik(Iceland), got high rankings for their technological advancements and programs. Under the IMD Business School SCI. Singapore, Zurich, Oslo, Geneva, and Copenhagen ranked in the top five. It is important to note that both researches were carried out in the same year, 2019. Also, they have some high-ranking cities in common. Critics have praised the IMD SCI, for being focused on the opinion of the people living in the 102 cities studied. Here, the ranking was based on the response of people to questions rather than on technicians’ and experts’ opinions.
In conclusion, regardless of what index you favor, it is essential to note that the concept of a smart city is subjective. However, it is of utmost importance that efforts are channeled towards using technological advancements to improve the welfare of the city’s citizens. Governments must strive to meet the six growth indicators we discussed while striving towards sustainable living.