I remember my first trip to Berlin. I remember seeing the wall of shame. I remember seeing two cities in one. I remember the great differences between East and West. Today Berlin is still showing some of these differences. But the city is striving to leave behind its past with its many Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives to become one of the World´s Smartest Cities.
I wonder if is possible to do the same in many other cities where the difference is not a wall that separates the East from the West but an artificial barrier that separates the North of the South. Maybe a dream only for a few cities.
The stupid struggle to be on the World´s Smartest lists
Since Joel Kotkin, a Forbes contributor, published “The World’s Smartest Cities” in 12/03/2009, many others like Boyd Cohen, have been ranking cities infamous lists. In US, the DoT (Department of Transportation) Smart City Challenge announced in June 2015 Ohio being named the winner. For its part, in February 2017, the Smart City Council announced a list with the five cities that had won its smart city competition. Congrats to Austin (Texas).
Myself was tempted to publish my own list of smart cities, but fortunately I left this project very soon. It pisses me off a lot to see how the 10 most magnetic cities in the world spend millions of dollars of taxpayers for being the first on such a lists with minimal impact in the quality of life for most of inhabitants.
I do not think it is healthy to compare cities and publish lists, because as honey attract flies, these lists are the perfect honey to attract the sharks.
Smart cities for workers, for retired and for pets
“Urbanization is expected to continue rising in both the more developed and the less developed regions so that by 2050, urban dwellers will likely account for 86 percent of the population – many of them millennials – in the more developed regions, and for 64 percent of that in the less developed regions”. By 2050, we can expect at least 37 “Mega Cities” with more than 10 million citizens each.
The main reason for living in big cities is work. Smart cities and attracting knowledge workers, but at the same time they are leaving many other less qualified workers out. Smart Cities need to be Prepared for the Imminent Boom of Millennial Workers. The digitally native generation has a set of urban standards they expect to be met. However, they also want culture, they want access, they want on-demand – and they want it all quickly. Only a minority of millennial workers will have the knowledge and relationship to get attractive jobs that allow them live in the center and enjoy the culture and advanced smart city services. Most will be condemned to live in the suburbs and beg for temporary jobs to survive in the increasingly expensive cities.
When I wrote “How will be our life as retired workers in the Smart Cities we are building?, I imagined one day in the year 2050, already retired, walking with my dog in a smart city of the future. I no longer fear to meet people who have left dangerous dogs loose. I no longer have to worry about looking at the ground so I do not step on dog poop.
Will be room for pets in smart cities? . I do not have statistics on how many retired workers will live in the cities of 2050, but around 3 billion pets will be living with us. Will my dream become reality or will it be the dream of a few living in the North?
Let’s think in integrate workers, retired workers and pets in smart cities.
Life is boring in the suburbs of Smart Cities
Despite the siren songs that tell us about intelligent transportation, self-driving cars, intelligent parking and many other smart initiatives, the truth is that in the macro-cities it is increasingly difficult for most of us to enjoy the leisure that takes place in the city center. I do not think I am the only one who thinks that life in Smart cities is boring.
The cities are growing mainly in suburban neighbourhoods that host hundreds of thousands of workers that the last thing they think when they get home or at the weekend is to take the car, much less public transportation, to go to the exhibition at the Museum of Art or the premiere of the fashionable theatre play, or just stroll through the old town.
And it’s not that they do not want to break the monotony to which they are subjected in the malls of cement, steel, and glass of the suburbs. It seems that many smart cities are being thought with the objective of attracting more tourism, to increase consumption, to collect more taxes in the city center.
Smart cities across the world are turning to “slow living” to make their communities happier and healthier in the face of increasing urbanization.
If pessimistic predictions about employment are met, and will we have so much free time, will we settle for virtual reality, augmented reality in the nearest mall or in our homes to enjoy in our suburbs of the smart cities?. The other smart city, the smart center city will it be so close but at the same time so far away for most of us.
Augmented citizens or Controlled citizens
Some smart cities are launching initiatives around the “citizen as sensor concept”. As I wrote in “Bring Your Own Cyber Human (BYOCH) – Part 1: Augmented humans” , an increasing number of people are being transformed in augmented citizens. Now only a few data enthusiastic and activist empowered by a new generation of connected technologies that voluntarily are contributing with the data they generate to improve public spaces and contributing for the public good.
Citizen sensor data is being used for many purposes including to improve public infrastructure, enhance public services, and increase public safety. Local government leaders look to the ever-increasing number of citizen sensors to augment their capacity to use data to make better decisions.
How much time is left for the city government leaders must select the augmented citizens? And not only for the purposes of improve public infrastructure, enhance public services, and increase public safety, but to prevent the potential risks of most not augmented citizens.
So, it seems once again that we are on our way towards a Premium Smart City for a few Augmented citizen and another Freemium smart city for the rest of Controlled citizens.
The North and the South sides of Smart Cities
Perhaps it is a cliché or an excuse to distinguish wealth and poverty, privileged and disadvantaged, North and South.
The North and South is a relative concept and not necessarily circumscribed to a geographical theme, it is a reality that the citizens of a city, a region, a country or a continent perceive and live every day.
When I see the new constructions and therefore the people who will inhabit them in the North and in the South of the cities, I do not detect any change regarding the decisions taken years ago by the leaders of that time. Inequality exists and the worst I think they want it to continue to exist.
I can not stop thinking that we are developing a premium technology for the North and a second-class technology for the South.
We will see premium technologies eg self driving cars, smart houses, smart hospitals, augmented citizens, in an increasingly smaller North of the smart cities or in the Southern islands , but the question is: What will second class or freemium technologies leave for the Great South of the smart cities?
Smart Education to remove distances between the North and the South
You can read several post about this topic like “Smart education in a smart city” or “Creating Smart Cities via Smart Education: how to prepare the future smart citizen” but I want to discuss other reality.
Do citizens and children have better education than we, our parents or grandparents? In a survey, at least in the developed countries, it would overwhelm the YES. Really? Are we more educated today? And more ethics? And more respectful?
Manipulation through education is now more evident than ever. Who educates us? Mostly social media, TV, newspaper, well worth, and teachers in schools and parents who use social media and TV. Is there a black hand that includes hidden North and South components?
Just a look any day to news, photos, messages or tweets to corroborate how the bad news of the city are concentrated in the South and good in the North. Visual evidence while walking or driving in the center and in the suburbs of “smart cities” seems to prove that cities are smartest in the North.
Am I a dreamer if I still think that only good education will make the differences North and South disappear?
The danger of being manipulated by “bad conductive education” is real. Who and how they educate us now depends on socio-economic and environmental factors and this makes the North – South gap become even greater.
If there is a reason to fight now perhaps more than ever, it is for a Smart Education equal for all, inhabitants in the Center, in the North and in the South. We will need one or several generations, it will not be 2020, but we will be closer to the dream of real Smart Cities.
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