"Citizens are the driving forces of change; thus, it is essential to approach them as soon as possible so that they may be aware of how necesary an integral urban transformation is. Citizen cooperation is essential to obtain."
"Smart urban development, based on a shared vision, should be directed according to environmental, social and economic parameters in the city"
Accenture has taken part in the production of a Report on Smart Cities. The goal of the report was to recommend practical solutions to be used as a guide in the evolution towards a Smart City. The present article outlines the most interesting concepts that arised.
No analysis on the future of cities would be well-rounded if it failed to take ecologic, economic and social aspects equally into account, integrating them in a global outline. Accenture has recently cooperated with BAUM (Bundesdeutscher Arbeitskreis für Umweltbewusstes Management e.V.; “German Association of Environmental Management, e.V.”) in the preparation of a report on Smart Cities. The goal of the report is to come up with practical suggestions that may serve as a guide in the evolution towards a Smart City. The report analyzes activities clustered in four areas of action -energy, mobility, planning and governance & economy- by means of three interdisciplinary aspects: ICT, public engagement and funding. Step by step towards a Smart City:
A shared vision
The process begins when the subject is detected, especially by lawmakers, managers and citizens. After that, the required actions are to be taken by those in charge of it, and problems and challenges to be faced by the city/region should be identified. This requires setting up several communication channels among all the people involved, and determining what the current situation is.
The following step involves the definition of a shared vision based on the initial analysis. To do so, the years 2020 and 2050 are usually taken as a reference, as both our generation and the following one will be directly affected by these time horizon. This compels us to act right now, given that long-term effects are already clearly detectable in several areas. Climate change is the best-known example. From the very early industrialization stages, our economic model has been generating a climate change that has some effects, and we have only been able to detect such effects now, after 150 years. We should act immediately -by adopting adaptation, precaution and prevention strategies- to avoid consequences on such a slowly-evolving system being irreversible. Direct communication among all people involved, particularly citizens, is essential in order to increase levels of acceptance, motivation, engagement and transparency.
Citizens are the driving forces of change; thus, it is essential to approach them as soon as possible so that they may be aware of how necesary an integral urban transformation is. Citizen cooperation is essential to obtain. Basic strategies should go hand in hand with political action at the top level. Support by lawmakers, planning officials and managers is also a fundamental part of such a shared vision: it guarantees a better knowledge about funding options, removes organizational barriers and acts as a guide for citizens. Besides, it moderates the whole process.
Strategies and measures: realistic goals for feasible solutions
The Report on Smart City states that such vision is a fundamental pillar for the practical definition of strategic and operational goals, as well as for the identification of the proper measures to be taken. It is a key factor that such measures make it easier to obtain the goals that were previously set. Therefore, the vision should be characterized by clear policies and realistic, well-defined goals classified according to several time horizons: short term (2-5 years), medium-term (5-10 years) and long term (more than 10 years).
Smart urban development based on a shared vision should be directed according to several city parameters: environmental parameters -such as water and energy consumption levels, reduction in the amount of urban waste or factors that affect the community as a whole- social parameters, such as access to information and education, health facilities, culture and leisure activities, inclusion in decision-making processes… Last but not least, economic parameters should also be taken into account, such as obtaining new funding sources, setting up new projects or defining new forms of cooperation.
When clear goals are defined, they may be used as the starting point to develop strategies and measures to be applied in a city: network building, planning, tendering and contracting procedures for building and infrastructure projects, allocation of funds…
The challenges currently being faced demand significant change processes, as well as new ideas in all areas of life and economy. In the last few years, several steps have already been taken towards smart urban development, and several initiatives have been undertaken at an international, national and local level in order to make European Cities smarter.
As stated in the report, no general action plan may be applied to all cities, as conditions, requirements and difficulties are different for each of them. The report considers a city to be smart if its urban development processes are designed in such a way that they are sustainable, efficient and pleasant for their citizens, taking into account the areas of action and the interdisciplinary issues mentioned in the report. Technological progress, on its own, is clearly insufficient. Smart funding models, as well as active engagement of all participants, also contribute to the success of an urban smart development process. Such processes should be accompanied by a significant shift in values and perceptions in all areas, as this will be the only way to undertake the required actions in a new context.
This report is intented to be used as a base, direction and guide for mayors, regional authorities, urban planning officials and all parties interested in smart urban development. It is up to the readers to take the following step to -in collaboration with competent experts and advisors- create their own way towards a sustainable, efficient and more likeable city.
by Carlos Bergara
Responsible for Sustainability Consulting Services en Accenture Strategy