A Smart City Shouldn’t Leave Any Citizen Behind

When it comes to city services, we expect that as a result of social policy and law, access to vital provisions such as utilities, waste water management, and communications is provided to all citizens no matter the sector they reside in.  In our zest to promote smart cities, are we ensuring that all sectors of a city will be able to participate; that the innovations in city services or economic benefits that are created will flow to all parts of our cities?

A smart city’s advanced communications infrastructure should be deployed in the least advantaged neighborhoods just as they are deployed in affluent neighborhoods. One reason for ensuring universal deployment of advanced communications structure is to enable cities to leverage collective intelligence. Deloitte, a consulting firm, defines collective intelligence as an aggregation of the wisdom of a crowd. City planning staff can gather information from surveys or craft nifty algorithms, but accurate and insightful data can be gleaned directly from city residents. As Deloitte pointed out in a recent report, mobile technology, including connected cars, and wearable tracking devices, allows city planners to capture digital footprints and use the behavior of citizens to design and deploy services that best meet citizens’ needs. In other words, the connectivity created by mobile devices spawns a network of sensors that provides useful data that can be stored as knowledge relied on for future decisions.

If cities are to be truly smart, it means leveraging wisdom, data, knowledge from all citizens including citizens residing in predominantly poor or ethnic minority neighborhoods. One example of the importance of deploying advanced communications networks in low income or ethnic minority neighborhoods is facilitation of affordable transportation. A combination of wireless devices and wireless facilities makes applications such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) feasible for residents with restricted access to transportation. MaaS has the potential to link various modes of public and private transportation using digital platforms.

For city planners, digital services like MaaS help address the problem of traffic congestion, a problem that will only get worse as more people move into cities and place additional strain on existing transportation infrastructure. MaaS and other digital services also help increase access to job opportunities otherwise unattainable due to transportation constraints.

Whether the issue is transportation, crime, or rights-of-way management, a smart city’s use of technology when managing these issues should combine the wisdom of all its residents with ensuing benefits flowing to all.

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