The future of Smart Cities is about ethics and inclusion

Same as living bodies, cities are born, grow and in some case die out. Interviewed by the Italian magazine Corriere Innovazione, Professor Richard Florida from the School of Cities of the University of Toronto explained most urban transformation processes resemble natural lifecycles and allow cities to resist disruptive crisis such as Covid-19.

The debate around decentralized cities or the 15-minutes cities confirm the pandemic is not pushing people away from urban areas, rather inciting a different way of experiencing and living them.

«I’m thinking of people-friendly districts and community-friendly spaces. A city should be much more than a place: it should be distributed and inclusive, providing museums, cultural centers, music halls, theatres, and more. This is the way to ignite relations and activities, reconnecting people», said Professor Florida.

Over the past five years, the Smart Cities wave has abandoned the initial tech-centered approach and focused more on the needs of residents and local communities. While acknowledging smart technologies can make public services more efficient and sustainable, current and future city projects are increasingly aimed at enhancing the quality of life and pursuing citizens’ happiness.

As reported by Smart Cities Dive after surveying leaders from 15 major U.S. cities, the future is about ethical and open communities, where technology plays a role by supporting data-driven decisions for inclusion and effective stakeholders’ engagement.

The expected evolution includes protecting residents’ digital rights and breaking down any racial and digital inequity. The pandemic created a sense of urgency around the need to close the digital divide, highlighting connectivity is a critical public infrastructure and access should be granted to anyone, same as power, running water, healthcare, or education.

But city leaders are very aware that digital equality and a stronger community engagement is also a matter of trust and transparency. Some people fear smart investments serve only the affluent and fail to safeguard their data and privacy, potentially resulting in even more divisiveness and inequality. Cities that make ethics and inclusion a cornerstone of their governance need to build long-term trust with their communities to ultimately realize the full potential of Smart City initiatives.

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