Broadband internet, sensor networks, and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms are key components of any smart city implementation. However, making a city smart requires more than just rolling out technology.
Below is a list of 10 best practices-based recommendations for creating smarter cities — helping (local) governments initiate, optimize, and evaluate smart city initiatives.
1. Start with a realistic vision on where and how you want to go. There are many drivers and many different definitions of a smart city, and no 2 single implementations are the same. Clearly state your urbanism, social, economic, and/or other objectives. Define your budget and plan your project. Resist the temptation to compare brownfield and greenfield scenarios.
2. Implement your (network) infrastructure first time right. Create a broadband IP and IoT infrastructure that is scalable, manageable and secure by design. Remember that you’re laying the foundation for all government-to-government, government-to-citizen, government-to-business, business-to-citizen, citizen-to-citizen, machine-to-person and machine-to-machine communication applications.
3. Embrace open data and open government policies. Public data and information from government and other sources can help solve civic problems and create new business opportunities. Define the rights and privileges associated with collected data. Position data governance as a means to improve value for both data producers and consumers.
4. Incorporate smart requirements into publicly funded infrastructure programs in areas such as mobility, healthcare, security, lighting, environment, energy, construction, and communications. Concentrate on your key role as a government. Fund or build the “need to have” infrastructure for your residents, and make sure that the “nice to have” applications are covered by private initiatives and partnerships.
5. Launch and support cross domain initiatives, like smart transportation, smart energy, or smart home programs that leverage across sectors and applications. For example a holistic approach to urban mobility addressing cars, buses and trains. Deploy (or adopt) a horizontal platform that enables data sharing, application creation and device management.
6. Stimulate ecosystems and cultivate a collaborative culture. Private partners such as project developers, utilities companies, service providers, technology vendors, system integrators, and application developers and startup ecosystems have a key role to play in developing smart city applications. Governments should boost innovation and collaboration through initiatives like city labs, developer contests, and application playgrounds.
7. Think big, but start small. Unless you’re an autocratic government or have unlimited resources available, don’t try to boil the ocean. Rome (even when it wasn’t a smart city yet) wasn’t built in one day. Start by creating network test beds, deployment blueprints, and application showcases.
8. Identify appropriate milestones and metrics to measure performance and monitor progress. Define a multi-criterion framework, mixing quantitative and qualitative indicators, customized for your city’s specific objectives. Don’t limit your evaluation to technical aspects only, but also consider parameters like digital economic growth, sectoral sensorization, accessibility of open data, digital service adoption, etc.
9. Build a city for the people. Community engagement is key. Smart city projects should be inclusive, participatory, and social. Launch digital equality initiatives and organize end-user education, let locals participate in technology and field trials, and get their feedback through frequent surveys and group sessions. And don’t neglect including “happy citizens” in your list of evaluation criteria.
10. Connect, communicate, and celebrate. Connect with citizens via community portals and social platforms, keep them informed about progress through communication sessions and social media, recognize collective achievements and celebrate (even small) successes.
Each city is a unique and complex microcosm of infrastructure, humans, and machines, characterized by a continuously evolving flux of opportunities and challenges. A smart city is a city, capable of reinventing itself by setting (and achieving) new standards for the welfare and wellbeing of its population.
There is no doubt that ICT technologies such as broadband internet, sensor networks, and IoT platforms are important building blocks for implementing a government’s vision. But it’s citizens’ acceptance and engagement that will eventually determine success or failure of any smart city initiative. That’s exactly why we, within the ng Connect program, go the extra mile beyond technology, and actively engage with stakeholders and end-users.