Smart cities: who do they benefit?

Roche’s article about smart cities is an organized and interesting read which situates smart cities in GIScience and offers ways for GIScience to make cities smarter.

As I read this article, I wondered if and how smart cities might reinforce existing power structures and further marginalize some groups in urban landscapes. “Rethinking urbanization” with an approach that is more focused on individuals sounds great – but it begs the question: which individuals are we focusing on? For example, it was troubling to me that neither this article nor the Sagl et al article mentions how smart cities could also be accessible cities, in ways that current cities are not. Would the smart cities the author envisions make public transit wheelchair accessible or help people with social anxiety avoid crowds? Where are the homeless in the author’s smart city vision, and how can they contribute geospatial information? Another problem is that proposing technological solutions and enhancing the “digital city” dimension of smart cities comes with the problem of access to and exclusion from these technologies. The author does address this critique, however, saying that if initiatives are driven by technologies, they can be reductive and one-size-fits-all.

Overall it seems to me that smart cities have an enormous amount of potential to improve the lives of many people, but we must be sure that all people are included. Hopefully, this is where the concept of the “intelligent city” comes into play, using VGI and participatory GIS to connect citizens; and where the “open city” increases cooperation and transparency.



One Response to “Smart cities: who do they benefit?”

  1. sieber says:

    Would be useful to more directly address the GIS/GIScience aspects of smart cities.