Smart cities are concrete actions, not just seductive narrative, says expert

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

'Smart' solutions may not be just a seductive narrative that sounds nice in election ads. They should, above all, be activities that actually improve the standard of living of residents, says Professor Dorota Dobija from the Koźmiński University.

The economist is the co-author of a study on the public value of 'smart' projects implemented in Krakow and Warsaw - two Polish cities from the 'Smart City Index 2023; list, the Kozminski University reports in a press release.

A smart city is a concept of a city that uses innovative technological solutions, such as city bike stations, electric buses or air pollution monitoring boards, in order to improve the quality of life of residents.

However, the researcher asks whether the initiatives created by cities actually meet the expectations of residents. She points out that the originators of 'smart' projects are usually private businesses that propose various types of solutions, often without consideration for the real needs of citizens.

The survey conducted among representatives of residents and managers of 'smart' initiatives, has confirmed that the public value perceived by 'city creators' is not always consistent with the expectations of residents.

The researchers have also noticed discrepancies between how people imagine smart city projects to work and how they actually work - and whether they are actually 'smart'.

According to the expert, the collaborative concept promotes an inclusive and participatory decision-making process. 'For example, such cooperation can be used to develop sustainable transport systems, support social entrepreneurship, make decisions about the development of green urban spaces, and improve access to basic services such as health care and education. People care about rest and safety', says Professor Dobija.

In her opinion, city management should focus on people and their needs, because residents are the main recipients of the introduced amenities.

'In such a city, different stakeholders: residents, entrepreneurs, civic society organizations, activists and officials work together to address the challenges. Joint management assumes partnership and trust between various actors,’ she says.

She adds that the concept of city management based on cooperation is well developed in Scandinavian countries, and Polish cities are just gaining their first experience with this approach. 'The participatory budget and the possibility for residents to decide what projects they would like to implement are examples of the experience of a city based on cooperation,’she says.

The study also shows that the further from the city centre, the fewer innovative improvements. 'Electronic boards showing the arrival time of buses or trams are very helpful devices, but outside the centre sometimes there are no bus shelters to protect from the rain, let alone multimedia timetables,’ the scientist says.

Professor Dobija also points out that projects located in central metropolitan areas are often addressed to a small group of recipients. 'Thanks to initiatives such as electric car charging stations, the attractiveness of the city increases. Unfortunately, such vehicles exclude most residents for financial reasons, because they are exclusive products. A wealthy society is one in which a rich person rides the subway, not one in which a poor person has a car,’ the expert says.

The study was financed by the Polish National Science Centre. The research team included: Professor Giuseppe Grossi, Zuzanna Staniszewska and Dominika Kaczmarek-Ciesielska. The results will be published in the Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal. (PAP)

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