Sustainable smart cities need to exchange best practices, focus on increasing citizen participation, and allow public and non-public delivery of innovative services. These are three of the policy recommendations in the ‘Smart Sustainable Cities – Reconnaissance Study’, published by the United Nations University in March.
According to the report, the world’s urban population will grow by 63 percent between 2014 and 2050. Megacities with over 20 million inhabitants will see the fastest increase in population – and at least 13 new megacities are expected by 2030, in addition to the 28 existing today.
Urban centres offer tremendous opportunities for economic development. Eighty percent of the world’s gross domestic product is generated in cities. At the same time the growth of cities is testing the limits of city infrastructures, with their increasing demands for energy, water, sanitation, education, healthcare, housing, transport and public services.
The report reviews smart city research. The report adds its own case studies on 21 smart city projects from across the globe, including Spain’s ‘Sustainable Barcelona Map project’, the Living Labs in Amsterdam (the Netherlands), and Portugal’s Guimarães Green City.
The authors warn that there are no off-the-shelf solutions to create smart sustainable cities. Local contexts and stakeholders need to be taken into account in any such strategy, they write. “The vision should not focus merely on technological development, but also highlight improvements in the economic, social, cultural, ecological, and governance dimensions. Leveraging social and cultural changes introduced by the Smart Sustainable City transformation is an opportunity to instil civic values in the society.”
The study was funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).