Four reasons you should help other cities get smart. (Three of them are entirely selfish.)

Wed, 2016-02-17 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

If you're a city leader committed to a smart city transformation, you know the challenges well: It's a disruptive process to dismantle “traditional” processes and build in their place a livable, economically vibrant and sustainable city.

So why would you take on even more challenges by helping smaller communities become smart too? The author cited below names two: First, because it’s the right thing. Second, because smaller communities can act as sounding boards or even test beds.

And I’ll add two more. For one, you’ll get better solutions, especially if the smaller cities are in your sphere of influence. Your problems – traffic, environment, crime – don’t stop at your city borders and neither do the solutions. Taking a “watershed” approach – talking with the other members of your regional urban area – will help you spot ways to share solutions and share costs.

For another, you may find ways to aggregate demand and thereby increase your purchasing power. If you can agree on common specifications, you can then go to vendors for a common buy, which can often allow you to negotiate a better price.

Are you already in dialogue with your neighboring cities on smart city topics? If not, please consider starting right away. -- Jesse Berst

Amid the smart cities discussions about digital technologies, policy changes and cooperation at the recent World Government Summit in Dubai, there also was considerable discussion about what it would take to bring the benefits of smart cities to smaller, sometimes remote communities. And how by helping other communities, larger metropolitan cities also could be helping themselves. In a piece in Al Arabiya English, managing editor Ehtesham Shahid.

The conference brought people together from all over the world for those discussions and to build partnerships and cooperation agreements. But as Shahid explained "There was a feeling though that while rapid progress is being made vis-à-vis smart cities, waiting eagerly for their turn are far-flung villages, which have virtually given birth to metropolitan cities that we inhabit today.

"Smart cities would do well to adopt a village each -- maybe more -- and replicate all the products and services they have managed to implement."

Why should they do that?
While the United Arab Emirates are enjoying a high degree of ICT growth and Internet use is close to 100%, the same can't be said of throughout the world. For Shahid, that raises the question of equitable distribution and access to those technologies.

He makes another point leaders of larger cities involved in smart city upgrades understand very well. "There is no denying the advantage of having smart cities. It builds efficiency, enhances productivity and apparently also makes its inhabitants "happy." But promised improvements in quality of life also, understandably, attract a large flow of population to mega cities. It is not surprising that the population of Dubai is expected to increase to five million by 2030." The population of Dubai, the UAE's largest city, is now about 2.5 million.

Shahid also offered a piece of advice for cities considering an adoption program, and the possibility of another practical return for larger cities. "Last thing a deprived village would need is a shoddy corporate social responsibility exercise making a mockery of their already miserable condition. In effect, these adopted villages should become extended entities, even sounding boards, of some of these smart city developments."

Related articles…
Cities want to get smarter, so why is it taking so long? (What you can do to move faster)
Want to be a global smart cities leader? Keep an eye on Denmark
Who will keep your smart city humming? Skilled, talented people (and Cisco's on it)

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.


Submitted by Oladayo Ibrahim on
Cities have always been at the centre of development. However, in developing countries of Africa, rural people are still the most populous. Therefore, I think settlements housing these populous people deserve some attention in the quest for development and good living. What if we discuss how villages can be promoted for resilience, competitiveness and development?