Will there be a digital divide between smart and dumb cities?
My list

Author | Marcos Martínez

The famous digital divide is already being felt in cities. Far from being just an idea, there is now a clear chasm appearing between smart cities and dumb cities, or, rather, less smart cities.

While some cities are investing to actively benefit society and their own future, others, which are more resistant to change, are still following last century’s models. Forecasts suggest that the quality of life in the two types of cities will be very different in just one decade.

Paradoxically, this division between the different urban planning models comes at a time in which countries are bridging the economic divide between them and we are even seeing a reduction in certain social inequalities. In this context of greater equality, we are witnessing the start of the smart divide in cities.

How is the smartness of cities measured?

In recent years, different cities have designed their policies with the aim of becoming smart cities. Hangzhou in China, for example, has given the city a brain, Singapore has created a digital twin to enable data-driven decision making, and Los Angeles is recovering pedestrian spaces.

There are various global indexes reflecting how smart a city can be. The World Council on City Data compares these visually while the IESE Cities in Motion index establishes a ranking. They use (among others) the following parameters:

  • governance,
  • urban planning,
  • the use of technology,
  • caring for the environment,
  • the international impact,
  • social cohesion,
  • transport and mobility,
  • human capital,
  • the economy.

dumb-and-smart-cities-61

There are dozens of other parameters and factors behind each of these points, such as CO2 emission indicators or the number of bicycles per household. The Top 5 include London, New York, Amsterdam, Paris and Reykjavik in 2019. But what about the other extreme?

Not so smart cities

Not all the cities around the world have the same resources as London or New York. The most recent cities to be included on the list, Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan, Caracas in Venezuela, Lagos in Nigeria and Duala in Cameroon, stand out for their general bad ratings in almost any quantifiable parameter.

For example, Karachi, with 4.57 out of 100, is the last on the list of over 170 cities, in terms of social cohesion, governance and international projection; and it is among the last three in terms of economy, human capital, urban planning, technology and mobility.

Without any capital for investment and without short-term improvement expectations, a large number of cities will not be able to follow the rhythm of those that stand out for their good quality of life. The smart divide, summarised in values ranging between 0 and 100, has existed for a long time.

Urban Darwinism and decline

The smartest cities attract more talent and capital. This leads to new investment in virtuous circles. The opposite also occurs and it easy to stumble sometimes and increase the divide. On 1 July 2019, the New York published an article entitled ‘Madrid reverses a driving ban’.

dumb-and-smart-cities-63

While the positive and objectively assessable as smart trend rewards health and economy in cities that restrict road traffic in their centres, Madrid [position 24 in January 2019] is the only example of a large European city to reverse these types of plans. Cities that follow these regressive strategies will find it hard to improve their current position.

What do cities do to be “less dumb”?

It is impossible to mention all of them, but some of the most common smart city initiatives include: involving citizens in decision-making, facilitating the use of public transport, fostering reduction and recycling, investing in security technology, recovering neighbourhood life, generating more pedestrian spaces, increasing green areas, promoting electric mobility, designing social policies, government transparency, urban planning, etc.

When all is said and done, small changes can make a big difference. But what is equally important: sometimes these improvements have a lasting and increasing effect, therefore, it is worth implementing a series of improvement policies to establish the bases of a strategy that will stand the test of time. A clear example of this is with public transport: once it is strengthened, there will be no going back. The key is to be brave enough to take that initial step.

Images | Jeffrey Swanson, Benjamin Davies, Alexandru Silitra

Related Content
Coworking spaces: how cities are adapting to this new work concept
Coworking spaces: how cities are adapting to this new work concept
It’s 2021. Why Are Public Spaces & Roads Still Unsafe For Women?
It’s 2021. Why Are Public Spaces & Roads Still Unsafe For Women?
5 signs that a city needs to urgently change in order to stay alive
5 signs that a city needs to urgently change in order to stay alive
These are the reasons why people abandon their city
These are the reasons why people abandon their city
Creating opportunities for a better future with the Tel-Aviv foundation
Creating opportunities for a better future with the Tel-Aviv foundation
[ui!] Urban Software Institute: Mobility for your whole life
[ui!] Urban Software Institute: Mobility for your whole life
Will there be a digital divide between smart and dumb cities?
Will there be a digital divide between smart and dumb cities?
Smart tourism destinations: the challenge of achieving a harmonious balance between industry and habitability
Smart tourism destinations: the challenge of achieving a harmonious balance between industry and habitability
Technology in schools with an impact in and out of the classrooms
Technology in schools with an impact in and out of the classrooms
Digital natives, technological illiterates?
Digital natives, technological illiterates?
Can we combat poverty with an app?
Can we combat poverty with an app?
Welcome to Vienna, the World’s best city to live in
Welcome to Vienna, the World’s best city to live in
Huawei Intelligent Operation Center: The brain and central nervous system of a Smart City
Huawei Intelligent Operation Center: The brain and central nervous system of a Smart City
SCHRÉDER EXEDRA: Lighting up cities
SCHRÉDER EXEDRA: Lighting up cities
Sameh Wahba, World Bank:
Sameh Wahba, World Bank: "Policies that can enable the creation of denser cities may be fiscal but also administrative"
Smart Innovation & City Progress in Disruptive Times: How cities are using disruption to accelerate innovation
Smart Innovation & City Progress in Disruptive Times: How cities are using disruption to accelerate innovation
Human Rights, Sustainability & Technology: Digitally Organizing Communities
Human Rights, Sustainability & Technology: Digitally Organizing Communities
And what shall we do with Grandad? Smart cities tackling the challenge of an ageing population
And what shall we do with Grandad? Smart cities tackling the challenge of an ageing population
Cities leading the way towards a just digital transition in the post-covid era
Cities leading the way towards a just digital transition in the post-covid era
PEOPLE-FOCUSED SMART CITIES: Connecting all the world’s people by 2030 as a force for good
PEOPLE-FOCUSED SMART CITIES: Connecting all the world’s people by 2030 as a force for good
Barcelona Smart Region: providing smart services for citizens
Barcelona Smart Region: providing smart services for citizens
Women's Leadership in Mediterranean Cities and Regions: addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Women's Leadership in Mediterranean Cities and Regions: addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Towards a New Latin American City: Rethinking Urban Development After COVID-19
Towards a New Latin American City: Rethinking Urban Development After COVID-19
#CitiesAreListening: Dialogue on a smart recovery in the post COVID-19 era
#CitiesAreListening: Dialogue on a smart recovery in the post COVID-19 era
Cities for global health: A city-to-city platform to face the pandemics
Cities for global health: A city-to-city platform to face the pandemics
Chicago’s inclusive response to Covid-19
Chicago’s inclusive response to Covid-19
BRENT TODERIAN: Brainstorming Urban Ideas
BRENT TODERIAN: Brainstorming Urban Ideas
Maimunah Sharif: the impact of Covid-19 in informal settlements
Maimunah Sharif: the impact of Covid-19 in informal settlements
Making Tech Work For People Across the Globe
Making Tech Work For People Across the Globe
Forced integration: how Singapore is preventing ethnic segregation in its neighborhoods
Forced integration: how Singapore is preventing ethnic segregation in its neighborhoods
How to Accomplish the
How to Accomplish the "Right to Housing"? Interview with Mayor Colau
SASKIA SASSEN: Urban Fragilities in a Post-pandemic World
SASKIA SASSEN: Urban Fragilities in a Post-pandemic World
Five changes with which cities can adapt to people living with Alzheimer's
Five changes with which cities can adapt to people living with Alzheimer's
CARLO RATTI: Reinventing the Post-pandemic World
CARLO RATTI: Reinventing the Post-pandemic World
Outdoor Smart Parking Solutions: Parking made simple
Outdoor Smart Parking Solutions: Parking made simple
MindSphere City Graph: Bringing the physical and digital world closer together
MindSphere City Graph: Bringing the physical and digital world closer together
Smartnodes: Realizing smart cities through smart lighting
Smartnodes: Realizing smart cities through smart lighting
X-Tention: How to avoid crowded places with an app
X-Tention: How to avoid crowded places with an app
Recommended profiles for you
ME
Miguel Eiras Antunes
Deloitte
I Lead globally our Cities practice
GM
German Montenegro
Pontificia Universidad javeriana
professor, Researcher
CO
Carles Oliete
Uch
Technician
Shannon Macika
Shannon Macika
BABLE
Smart City Consultant
JOAN CORNET PRAT
JOAN CORNET PRAT
ECHAlliance
Director Digital Health Observatory
jt
judit terma
Diputació de Barcelona
cap d'Oficina de Serveis a la xarxa de biblioteques
ER
Elisabet Roca Bosch
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
Associate professor
Ruby Rubio
Ruby Rubio
C3 Comunicaciones
Yo hago Comunicación para el cambio social. Mi misión es la formación de ciudadanos inteligentes.
María Eugenia Salvador
María Eugenia Salvador
Freelance
Jefa de prensa
Ruben Arno Waltner
Ruben Arno Waltner
PC y SERVICE Soluciones Informáticas
CTO
EBRAHIM RASTAR
EBRAHIM RASTAR
Tehran University of Art
student
MP
Margarita Pomares
Arquitecta
Architect
Juan Xolocotzi
Juan Xolocotzi
Markísima
Owner
Noelia  Guzman
Noelia Guzman
CIUDADES
I’m and architect, professor at the university and volunteer in a civil organization called CIUDADES
JU
Joan UBEDA
n/a
n/a
RT
Rutsuko Tanaka
World Bank TDLC
Public Relations Officer TDLC
JM
Jose Medina
Ingeniosoft sa de cv
CEO
JO
JUAN JOSÉ OJEDA SEGOVIA
I.E.P. "Maeterlinck Mauricio"
Promotor
Joe Speck
Joe Speck
SDC Agency
Founder
Sayon Pramanik
Sayon Pramanik
National Institute of Technology Raipur
Assistant Professor

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$