ICT Role for Smart Sustainable Cities

March 28, 2019

A smart city is an innovative urban strategy, using high technologies to reduce the city environmental footprint and to improve the citizens’ quality of life. Smart cities use ICT to implement their smart strategies and to collect and deliver information at different users. For this reason, a smart city is somewhat joining different aspects of living in the urban area and link several concepts such as wired city, virtual city, intelligent city, information city, digital city, knowledge city, and so on. A smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) and other means to improve quality of life, the efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects.

The role of ICT practices in smart sustainable cities
As aforementioned, the definition of ‘sustainable’ provides a  cognitive frame for the understanding of which smart solutions are relevant. If, on the one hand, a sustainable city is defined as an urban area in which the built environment is resource efficient, then ‘smart’ will comprise ICT solutions for automation. If, on the other hand, a sustainable city is defined as an urban area in which the footprint of consumption does not exceed a certain level, then ‘smart’ will imply ICT solutions addressing also consumption habits, by way of information, persuasion and gamification. The contemporary smart sustainable city discourse aspires to address both infrasystems and lifestyles but is strongly techno-biased. While there are well-elaborated proposals for technological solutions, and to some extent how these are intended to be used, the heterogeneity and complexity of everyday life is remarkably often neglected. Moreover, the solutions are typically aimed at an ideal type of human being, emerging from the male-biased technocratic dreaming of engineers and policy-makers. The idea of this individual and rational “resource man” [43] is however not unique for the smart sustainable city discourse but is a recurring character in many sustainable development agendas addressing consumption, behaviour or lifestyles [45, 46]. While “resource
man” might be an appealing understanding of how people function, this simplification is a problematic shortcut.
Numerous studies have shown that to understand patterns of consumption (and how to change them), it does not suffice to focus the logic of (bounded) economic rationality. Social, cultural and institutional dimensions also need to be taken into consideration. Additional criticism against contemporary smart city agendas is lifted by , who argues that the smart city agenda is underpinned with ideas of authoritarianism instead of harnessing the reality of urban life.

Smart Sustainable Cities
ICTs can play a significant role to improve the carbon footprint of cities by moving to more intelligent use of energy.

ICTs can enable better use of energy in buildings, transport, street lighting etc. It can also facilitate the integration of locally generated renewable energy into the electricity grid. The report “Impacts of Information and communication Technologies on Energy Efficiency” which was commissioned by the European Commission identifies areas in a city in which ICT can have a positive impact.

Because of the positive role ICTs can play in helping cities reduce their carbon emissions the European Commission co-finances initiatives and research in this area through the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.


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