The intelligence we seek in “smart cities”

The intelligence we seek in ``smart cities``

The term “smart cities” began to emerge in the late 1960s, and experts define them as innovative cities that utilize information and communication technology to improve the quality of life and cater to the needs of current and future generations. In 2016, the International Telecommunication Union launched an initiative called “United for Sustainable Smart Cities,” which is one of the United Nations’ initiatives to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 11. This goal aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Although smart city concepts are now associated with sustainability, the technological advancement accompanying smart city projects is expected to lead to higher energy consumption rates compared to natural rates. This is because they rely on transportation and communication networks and data collection more extensively than usual in cities. Therefore, introducing clean energy projects, optimizing natural resources usage, and embracing circular economy concepts have become essential issues in the development of these cities. Consequently, planning for these cities has become intertwined with various economic, social, environmental, and cultural aspects.

It’s worth mentioning the works of Jane Jacobs, especially her groundbreaking book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” in which she addressed many fundamental issues in city building. She criticized urban planning that fails to directly integrate community members in the planning process, stating, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Hence, if smart cities can build advanced infrastructure and keep pace with the times, can they also make the lives of their residents better in all aspects of sustainability, especially in terms of social relationships?

What’s the benefit if these cities can create advanced and investment-friendly infrastructure but are unable to make their inhabitants more cohesive and happy? Cities are built for humans, so they should be built to preserve their cultures and foster their relationships with each other. This is not a simple matter, as Jacobs also said, “Man is difficult to live with, and therefore all kinds of cities (except dream cities) suffer from problems.” Therefore, we need to delve into understanding communities if we intend to plan smart cities for them. The intelligence we seek in cities is the one that ensures the prosperity of communities in all different aspects, in a thoughtful and balanced manner.

Note: This article has been automatically translated.

Source: Alwatan News

Dr. Abdulla Alabbasi, Director of the Energy and Environment Program

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