This will be the last post in this series about smart cities. I have learned so much reading and writing these few entries on the topics, I hope you have enjoyed reading about it!
This last entry is about putting a little heart into technology. Smart cities have the potential to revolutionize how we all live, how we move from A to B, how safe we are in our homes. They could even help us end the global water crisis. But there are a number of ethical considerations that should be addressed by anyone attempting to implement these changes. It is real, flesh-and-blood people, after all, who live, love and raise children in these cities.
My Fair City
Many countries (and their largest cities) struggle with rising inequality. In fact, many city maps act as a sort of visual representation of just how far the upper class rests, in every way, from those struggling to make ends meet. It is in the hands of governments, engineers, designers and the citizens themselves, to ensure that the benefits of a smart city extend to everyone in it, regardless of where they reside or how much they earn.
Minerva Tantoco’s article “Creating a Smart and Equitable City” tackles the problem of ensuring that the process of creating a smart city doesn’t further the existing digital/technology gap but, in fact, helps erase it. Mayor de Blasio’s efforts focused around creating community programs to educate young people on technology, computer science, etc. and build the workforce that will bring smart cities to fruition. Furthermore, there are initiatives like LinkNYC, a city franchise that turns old payphones into WiFi hot spots all over the city.
More importantly, data on implementation of smart city initiatives was gathered by de Blasio’s administration from 50 cities totaling 450 best practice guidelines to inform NYC’s transition into an IoT hub of the future. These guidelines will help chart the expansion of NYC’s smart city initiatives in a way that benefits all of its citizens.
I think Jeff S. Merritt (director of innovation, city of NY) said it best, deploying these initiatives successfully goes back to understanding the citizen, their needs and wants and obtaining their trust. Reaching this level of understanding won’t just shape the solutions, in some cases it may even re-frame the problem away from technology:
Our smart city journey begins by understanding the unique needs and pain points that New Yorkers face and acknowledging that technology is not always the answer; in fact, sometimes technology can be at the root of these problems.
The concerns of someone living in the south of Bogota, Colombia are of course different than those in Boston, or even in the North of Bogota. My main concern is to live in a city that isn’t destroying the planet, that makes it safer for me to walk my dog past 10:00PM no matter my neighborhood, that ensures my husband (of four years now, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!) can get home in a stress free, sustainable, safe way. A smart city has to be human, it has to have heart, it has to care about the things we ALL care about, not just those of us wealthy enough to live like kings.