Smart Cities Should Work for Their Citizens

It has become very clear in our technologically advanced society that change is unavoidable. Technology has, certainly,  touched almost every part of our lives. Lately, every day there seems to be a new device designed to supposedly improve human lives. Governments and urban developers have started to understand that they need to inculde information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance urban services. The question on their minds seem to be: How do cities function, and how can they function better? Therefore, it is exactly this question that has spurred on the development of smart cities.

The term “smart city” has become quite board as different kinds of technology have developed and been implemented within cities’ infrastructure. On a basic level, a smart city is an urban development using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide useful information and resource to its citizens. Unquestionably, the main goal of developing smart cities seems to be an attempt at reconciling technological innovation with the economic, social and, occasionally ecological, challenges of cities.

Moreover, a smart city’s success depends on its ability to form a strong relationship between the government and the private sector. This relationship is necessary because most of the work that is done to create and maintain a digital, data-driven environment occurs outside of the government. Naysayers of smart cities worry that city managers will not keep data privacy and security in mind.

Smart cities embrace technologies that can improve security, traffic, lighting, energy & water infrastructures and address environmental concerns, such as pollution and sustainability.  Additionally, smart buildings are also often part of a smart city project. The improving of services like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, as well as energy usage and efficiency, is crucial.

Smart Cities Throughout The World

Naturally, when one thinks about smart cities one may think about the networked and advanced streets and road works of Singapore or the smart lightening advancements of Oslo. However, smart cities and smart city technologies are also being embraced in Africa. Smart cities are blooming all around the continent, as illustrated by Eko Atlantic in Lagos, Nigeria; Hope and King City in Ghana; Vision City in Kigali, Rwanda; Kenya’s new tech hub Konza technology city and Waterfall city in South Africa.

Nairobi and Cape Town rank among the most advanced cities in Africa. Cape Town stands out as one of the best places to do business in the continent as the South African government continuously implements cutting edge technology to attract businesses and improve the lives of its citizens. Both Nairobi and Cape Town look at Singapore as a role model for the city of the future.

Civic leaders vying to create the next smart city and utilize technology to overcome the growing challenges of cities will need to take into account concerns over data security. This means that there needs to be a renewed focus on transparency in tech and more engaged public participation in the implementation process. Smart city initiatives must include the people they aim to help: residents, businesspeople, and visitors. Smart city projects should include plans to make the data transparent and available to citizens. After all, the point of smart city technology is to make the lives of those citizens easier.