Smart cities: the road to inclusion?

The term “Smart Cities” conjures up ideas of good urban planning linking with Internet and communications technology. But how can it be smart if it is not also accessible and inclusive for everyone?

The smart city is about connecting technology with urban planning. But will it solve all the accessibility and inclusion problems?

A city skyline at night against a backdrop of a computer circuitry board.

Women, children and people with disability face difficulties accessing public space. This is because of safety concerns and physical barriers in the built environment. But public space must be welcoming and meaningful for all citizens. This is where community-led activities in designing public space becomes important.

Two researchers looked at digital technologies to see how they could help reframe public space design to be more inclusive. Technology should go beyond data collection to playing a central role in promoting social responsibility. Their research established a framework for creating inclusive public spaces based on site visits and users’ opinions.

The research study emphasises the importance of involving citizens in the governance of public spaces. They provide valuable data and insights about the quality and use of these spaces.

The title of the article is, The Use of the Smart Technology for Creating an Inclusive Urban Public Space.

From the abstract

Urban public spaces should be about community building, physical and mental well-being, social interaction, civic engagement, citizen participation, and economic vitality. However, low-income individuals, women, children, and people with disabilities often miss out. The paper discusses:

A framework of eight indicators: spatial distribution, typology, facilities and services, green and humid areas, governance and management, safety, user categories, and user satisfaction.

Involving citizens in leveraging smart technology for monitoring, providing real-time information and services improves facility efficiency, and creates an eco-friendly environment.

This paper promotes the development of an urban public space that caters to the diverse needs of the community, fostering a sense of belonging and well-being for all.

London’s Smart City Strategy

The aim of a smart city strategy is to improve the wellbeing of residents, social life and economic welfare through technology based interventions. Although technology offers several benefits for more inclusive and liveable environments, there are also drawbacks.   

Inclusiveness is embedded in the London Smart City Strategy, but there is still room for improvement.

A wet wintery street scene in London showing a line of mid-rise buildings and shops. London's smart city strategy.

A study of the strategy indicates that spatial inclusion is the major focus of the London smart city policy. A variety of assistive technologies promote inclusive housing, transport and health management systems. 

Improving citizen engagement through collaborations, increased transparency, and measures for preventing data misuse and misinterpretation will boost inclusiveness.

The London case study highlights the potential barriers in implementing inclusive strategies for smart cities in practice. The valuable lessons may provide good information for other cities. 

The title of the article is Inclusive Smart Cities: An Exploratory Study on the London Smart City Strategy.

Smart cities: a revolution?

City-wide technology offers hope for people with disability, but only if there is a shift towards universal design and inclusive solutions.

An article by Marcin Frackiewicz discusses the possibilities for smart and inclusive cities from a optimistic perspective of technology.

A smart phone and wifi icons sit over a background picture of a cityscape.

Street cameras to help keep people safe and automatic doors are commonplace technology. And newer ideas such as ridesharing are possible because of technology. Apps for real-time updates for public transport to minimise unpleasant surprises. So what else can we look forward to?

Frackiewicz claims that the use of data for fine-tune urban services enables a place for “undervalued voices”. He optimistically says smart city technology is equalising, by making sure that everyone thrives.

The title of the magazine article is, Breaking Barriers: The Smart City Revolution’s Quest for Universal Accessibility. It’s a flowery writing style with lots of poetic turns of phrase.

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