Today, cities are adopting digital technologies to improve the daily lives of residents. They are called “smart cities”. How would you define these new smart cities?
It is difficult to find a definition that all smart city participants agree on. But for me, a smart city is a city that, thanks to digital technologies, improves the daily life of residents on an environmental, social and economic level. As the boundaries of the city become increasingly difficult to establish, some today prefer to speak of a connected territory or a stable territory. But the technology behind it remains the same.
Security, data protection… Today, many citizens fear these new forms of data exploitation. Why ?
Behavior and representations are very ambivalent. On the one hand, we do not hesitate to share personal data online, in particular through social media platforms. On the other hand, there is a certain reluctance to expose your data to the community or public space, such as when you are being filmed for submission to facial recognition algorithms. Some citizens may find these devices intrusive, but they are essential for safety!
There is a lot of talk at the moment about the structure of trust, but it is also necessary to understand that an individual does not necessarily need to know the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or even the charters that appear in the territories. And he doesn’t care… As an end user, he also wants to know what compensation he can get by sharing his data: does he make money? Is it safer? Does it contribute to the common good? etc
All these new digital applications in the city, however, are designed to provide residents with new services…
As a result. The goal of a smart city is not to use technology for the sake of technology, but to put it at the service of citizens. This can range from apps allowing them to report a lighting problem on a public road so it can be resolved faster, to sensors installed on the road to know in real time about available parking spaces or traffic conditions, air quality. conditions, etc.
The promise of digital savings often justifies the initial investment.
There are also many applications that allow citizens to participate in the life of the city, such as online joint budgets, suggestion boxes, etc. They are called “civictech” applications for “civil technology”. But a smart city is also the formal and informal networks that people create on the Internet and that allow them to exchange ideas or objects, meet … Finally, a smart city is based on the exchange of data and access to so-called “open data” for all public politician. A facility for those who want to produce information and new services.
How to measure the real benefit of these projects for both the citizen and the community?
We are experimenting with a wide variety of devices throughout the territory: in Lyon, Nantes, Nice, Dijon… And the promise of digital savings often justifies the initial investment. However, today we often stay in spells because it is very difficult to measure these benefits. Either because the projects were recent and there is no feedback, or because the data is not available or available.
It is then very difficult to calculate the cost-benefit ratio, since digital technologies are systemic in nature and must be taken into account on a global scale. We just want to calculate the savings made? Or should we consider the impact of such actions on the environment? Their influence on the involvement of citizens in the political life of the city? Upskilling people and closing the so-called digital divide? The question of how depends on what you want to measure. What happens to smart city metrics if we decide, for example, to move away from the collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) frame of reference and adopt the Gross National Happiness (GNH) frame of reference?