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World populations shifting to urban areas. More than half of the World’s population now lives in urban areas[i].

In the past decade, the evolution and rapid improvement of information technology, sensing, big data and information-based products and services has shifted the way in which people live in cities.

Smart phones make anytime anywhere access to information, services and communication.

It has become the expectation of many citizens, who have adapted almost seamlessly to this new way of living.

At the same time, while city governments make this transition to online service provision, they must ensure that those who do not have access to this technology are not left behind.

Ensuring liveable conditions within the context of such rapid urban population growth worldwide requires a deeper understanding of the smart city concept.

These challenges triggering many cities around the world to find smarter ways to manage them.

These cities are increasingly described with the label smart city.

The world’s cities are embracing a smart city agenda not because they want to but because they have to.

Why Smart City Needed?

According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s extensive study of global cities[ii], 80% of global GDP is generated in cities with 50% in the 380 major cities of the developed world and 10% in the largest 220 cities of the developing world.

In 2025, these top 600 cities will still be generating 60% of the growth in GDP but their membership will have shifted East with an estimated 100 new cities entering the rankings from China alone, where the urban population is expected to rise by 200 million, to over 800 million.

Some 235 million households earning more than $20,000 pa (at Purchasing Power Parity rates i.e. adjusting for the different cost of living) will live in the emerging economy cities, compared to 210 million in developed region cities.

This growth of a global urban middle class, with correspondingly high expectations of public services and the quality of the urban infrastructure and environment, will have a profound impact on the market for smart city services.

A Smart City should enable every citizen to engage with all the services on offer, public as well as private, in a way best suited to his or her needs.

What is a Smart City?

  • A city well performing in a forward-looking way in economy, people, governance, mobility, environment, and living, built on the smart combination of endowments and activities of self-decisive, independent and aware citizens.[iii]
  • A city that monitors and integrates conditions of all of its critical infrastructures, including roads, bridges, tunnels, rails, subways, airports, seaports, communications, water, power, even major buildings, can better optimize its resources, plan its preventive maintenance activities, and monitor security aspects while maximizing services to its citizens.[iv]
  • A city “connecting the physical infrastructure, the IT infrastructure, the social infrastructure, and the business infrastructure to leverage the collective intelligence of the city”[v]
  • A city striving to make itself “smarter” (more efficient, sustainable, equitable, and liveable)[vi]
  • A city “combining ICT and Web 2.0 technology with other organizational, design and planning efforts to dematerialize and speed up bureaucratic processes and help to identify new, innovative solutions to city management complexity, in order to improve sustainability and livability.”[vii]
  • “The use of Smart Computing technologies to make the critical infrastructure components and services of a city––which include city administration, education, healthcare, public safety, real estate, transportation, and utilities––more intelligent, interconnected, and efficient”[viii]

There is no absolute definition of a smart city, no end point, but rather a process, or series of steps, by which cities become more “liveable” and resilient and, hence, able to respond quicker to new challenges.

Smart City Attribute

Smart City integrated the hard infrastructure, social capital and technologies (digital) to fuel sustainable economic development and provide an attractive environment for all.

The key enabler of Smart Cities is its ICT “central nervous system,” beginning with a broadband network that is perceived today as commodity to the everyday lives of its citizens.

As a result, telecommunication network infrastructures are, in many cases, essential to realize the objectives of the other industries driving the effective and sustainable development of a Smart City.

Typically, governments initiate a Smart City project. Sometimes this happens in cooperation with other partners.

However, private companies can also initiate development efforts. When this does happen, the initiative still needs government backing Government and top government officials are also usually drivers – key influencers and decision makers – of most Smart City projects.

Birmingham, Dublin, Gdansk, and Shenyang offer very good examples of projects where government and government officials play this role.


[i] Dirks, S., Gurdgiev, C., & Keeling, M. (2010). Smarter Cities for Smarter Growth: How Cities Can Optimize Their Systems for the Talent-Based Economy. Somers, NY: IBM Global Business Services. Available from ftp://public.dhe.ibm.com/common/ssi/ecm/en/gbe03348usen/GBE03348USEN.PDF.

Dirks, S., & Keeling, M. (2009). A Vision of Smarter Cities: How Cities Can Lead the Way into a Prosperous and Sustainable Future. Somers, NY: IBM Global Business Services. Available from ftp://public.dhe.ibm.com/common/ssi/ecm/en/gbe03227usen/GBE03227USEN.PDF.

Dirks, S., Keeling, M., & Dencik, J. (2009). How Smart is Your City?: Helping Cities Measure Progress. Somers, NY: IBM Global Business Services. Available from ftp://public.dhe.ibm.com/common/ssi/ecm/en/gbe03248usen/GBE03248USEN.PDF.

[ii] http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/mgi/research/urbanization/urban_world

[iii] Giffinger, R., Fertner, C., Kramar, H., Kalasek, R., Pichler-Milanovic, N., & Meijers, E. (2007). Smart Cities: Ranking of European Medium-Sized Cities. Vienna, Austria: Centre of Regional Science (SRF), Vienna University of Technology. Available from: http://www.smartcities.eu/download/smart_cities_final_report.pdf.

[iv] Hall, R. E. (2000). The vision of a smart city. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Life Extension Technology Workshop, Paris, France, September 28, Available from: http://www.osti.gov/bridge/servlets/purl/773961oyxp82/webviewable/773961.pdf

[v] Harrison, C., Eckman, B., Hamilton, R., Hartswick, P., Kalagnanam, J., Paraszczak, J., & Williams, P. (2010). Foundations for Smarter Cities. IBM Journal of Research and Development, 54(4).

[vi] Natural Resources Defense Council. What are smarter cities? Available from http://smartercities.nrdc.org/about.

[vii] Toppeta, D. (2010). The Smart City Vision: How Innovation and ICT Can Build Smart, “Livable”, Sustainable Cities. The Innovation Knowledge Foundation. Available from : http://www.thinkinnovation.org/file/research/23/en/Top peta_Report_005_2010.pdf.

[viii] Washburn, D., Sindhu, U., Balaouras, S., Dines, R. A., Hayes, N. M., & Nelson, L. E. (2010). Helping CIOs Understand “Smart City” Initiatives: Defining the Smart City, Its Drivers, and the Role of the CIO. Cambridge, MA: Forrester Research, Inc. Available from: http://public.dhe.ibm.com/partnerworld/pub/smb/smarterplanet/forr_help_cios_und_smart_city_initiatives.pdf.