Smart Cities or Smart Citizens?

You only have to go on line and search “Smart Cities” to realise that for every commentator, blogger, academic and chancer currently involved in the uber-trendy conversation on this topic there are almost as many concepts/ definitions of what a smart city is.

As with many ideas which have a catchy name (and “placemaking” is a case in point) it is easy to allow that name to misdirect thinking and debate.

Two completely disparate experiences have coalesced this for the Blog recently. 

The first was a Buddhist commentator on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. His point was that a state can only be nominally Buddhist. Its true character and spiritual orientation is defined by the behaviours and beliefs of its individual citizens.

The second was the DZONE podcast linked below, “It’s not Smart Cities, it’s Connected Citizens.” There’s more than a grain of truth in the idea that cities themselves can only be nominally “smart”. They can have all the talking lamp posts and can be connected to the Internet of Things at every conceivable level but their true “smartness” is in the extent to which their individual citizens are actually connected. Not the extent to which there is the capacity and oppportunity for them to be connected, but the reality of connectivity.

This starts to veer off into all kinds of other conversations about the potential disenfranchisement from “connectivity” of certain demographics and, out on another limb, the idea (or non-idea) of the Smart Hamlet.

Whatever, the Blog’s underlying point is that there needs to be caution around avoiding being swept up in the shiny novelty and interesting-ness of Smart Cities and a discipline to ensure that the “Smartness” (ie connectivity)) of individual citizens keeps pace in the discussion and development process.

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