This morning I was discussing about an idea for an innovative R&D project that one of our most interesting and unconventional clients – who leads a technology transfer and incubation organization – wanted to check with us.
In the course of this stimulating conversation, he highlighted the difference between a “citizen” and a “city user”. The former is a city resident, while the latter is somebody who accesses and uses some or most of a city’s facilities and services, without being a resident. This clearly applies to workers who commute every day, to students, to tourists. The difference in impact between the former and the latter group depends on the specific jurisdiction, the time of the year, or the occurrence of a special event (such as a music festival or a sporting match).
Although some smart city initiatives look at both communities (and certainly so for cities that attract loads of tourists or for special events that often pay for a good portion of the initiatives), in most cases the smartness focuses on making life better for residents. For instance, when discussing about participatory planning or policy-making, there is an assumption that residents should have a say, but considerably less attention to how to capture input from non-residents who happen to be “city users”.
The dichotomy between citizens and city users stresses the importance of using smart government approaches that cut across multiple domains, jurisdictions and tiers of government.
If the traffic at peak hours is mostly caused by non-residents, is it more effective to use technology to influence their behaviors when they are in the city, or is it better to make sure that the cities or counties they reside in do so? A city can spend money in deploying video cameras to control traffic and charge access, or can rely on other cities to change their residents’ behaviors. After all, satellite cities where people just happen to sleep in have an interest in creating a stronger identity and brand, and perhaps lure residents to spend more time (and money) in their shops than letting them spend out of town the vast majority of their time. Equally, counties, provinces or states that are in charge for congested highways and other roads that leads into larger cities, would equally enjoy a lower utilization rate, less traffic, fewer accidents, and so forth.
If one looks at the connections between making a city smarter from the standpoint of air quality, traffic, energy consumption, waste management, and so forth, it is quite clear that cooperation with neighboring towns as well as other tiers of government (county, state, etc) are as important as the cooperation between different city departments, if not more.