Smart cities

Vancouver (pictured right; the Digital Orca is an acclaimed sculpture by Douglas Coupland) is  joining the Smart Cities Challenge:

“The City of Vancouver is competing for $50 million in the Government of Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge . The competition recognizes Canadian cities that use data and connected technology to address local issues.

Smart cities have the potential to improve all aspects of livability and opportunity in a city: how we move around and communicate, our environment, and more.”

You can read about the Smart City Challenge here, it’s a good introduction to what becoming a smart city entails.

Cities are inevitably becoming smarter; the question for Vancouver is whether or not the government needs to lead the charge, or whether the people’s organic interaction with ICT will lead to a self organized smart city.

The following comments and notes are in response to a debate in the Economist: Are smart cities empty hype?

  • The title of the debate is wrong. Neither debater thinks Smart cities are empty hype. The debate is whether implementation should be more top-down or more bottom-up. This is an excellent question for many tech-related issues, eg OER.
  • OER implementation needs a policy to ensure even distribution, and that implies leadership and top-down involvement. The same would apply to smart cities.
  • An important part of the smart city debate is whether a top-down system  leads to proprietary platforms. Who wants to leave innovation solely in the hands of government eggheads? Isn’t open architecture cheaper and faster?
  • Bottom-up development can be impeded by government reticence. Look at Japanese education’s distrust of technology as an example; the school system rejects the affordances of the Internet and networking in favor of traditional tropes. Implementation of bottom-up innovation requires top-down help.
  • Bottom up systems can be poorly focused, as in public opinion or lack of same; for example the US electoral system made Trump president, which I would classify as a failure.
  • Top down systems are too specific because a handful of planners cannot foresee the infinity of eventualities. That’s dangerous for a city.
  • A top-down approach (as long as the platforms are open source) provides a scaffold on which individuals can innovate and build.
  • jbean123 wrote in the debate’s comments that smart cities are already happening. Of course they are; it’s a process, not a state.
  • the moderator of the debate was surprisingly cynical about both debaters, summarizing both with critical comments. I like it.

The debate, almost word for word, could have been about implementation of OER.

 

 

 

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