An article by Markus Keller, Senior Vice President Smart City at Deutsche Telekom AG.
The way we approach the concept of a smart city has changed a great deal over the past few years. Cities and communities were initially driven by technology providers when they tried to develop strategies for their digital transformation. However, local governments leading the move towards a smart city have in time realized that technology – however innovative – is only the enabler for reaching their governmental, societal and economic goals. ‘Smart’ is not just a mix of IoT solutions. It is about empowering cities, citizens and businesses. ‘Smart’ is also no longer reserved just for cities, but for smaller towns and communities as well.
The focus of smart city decision makers has therefore firmly shifted away from the technology that underpins a smart city towards the people it helps. Quality of life takes center stage in this human-centric smart city approach. The aim is for citizens to prosper economically, of course. But a smart city should also enable them to lead secure, healthy and meaningful lives.
Getting involved early-on
The now established view that technology should be considered a smart city enabler, not a driver, was not the only insight local governments gained over the past years. They have also learned that top-down initiatives, however people-focused, are not a guarantee for success. Tackling the challenges that come with growing urbanization requires input from all sides. A human-centric approach therefore needs proper teamwork and involvement of stakeholders to be successful. For a city or community to become smarter, it needs to take the problems of citizens and local businesses into account. And that as early as possible in the decision-making process.
Best practices show that the joint people-first approach pays off: Smart Cities like Copenhagen or Vienna are ranked amongst the most livable cities in the world. These Smart Cities focus on improving people’s quality of life by solving their problems instead of transforming them top down. The current strategy of the city of Copenhagen “Let’s co-create Copenhagen” shows that approach. Copenhagen has set goals based on where people see the biggest benefit for their city. For example, keeping citizens engaged outdoors or motivating them to take the bike instead of the car for their journeys. The results can be seen already.
Co-Creation: The Secret Sauce to Success
The Co-Creation concept takes the people-centric approach right to the start of any smart city project. Those tasked with co-creating their smart city begin with gathering the feedback of citizens, city officials and companies. The insights from these stakeholders are the bedrock for any successful and sustainable Smart City strategy. Two aspects are important here: understand the various needs as precisely as possible and integrate the different perspectives from the beginning. The creativity of many stakeholders will help crystalize the key issues. This process ensures that digitization creates real added value.
With the development of our Co-Creation Toolbox, we have taken the human-centric approach to building a smart city right to the top of our agenda. The toolbox is exactly what it says on the cover: an innovative collection of methods and applications for the development of intelligent citizen services. It minimizes risks and leads to better results through participation, ownership and engagement. Municipalities can independently tackle their digitization projects with the ideas and instructions they contain. Administration and citizens work together to advance the sustainability of their city. If needed, we can help with the development and technical implementation.
Co-Creation is the way forward for our smart cities and regions. It is inclusive, fair and open to all. It addresses real needs, not imaginary ones. The concept truly gives the power back to the people when it comes to creating their smart city.