With almost 70% of the world’s population predicted to be living in urban areas by 2050, digital technology will be the oxygen that enables citizens and businesses in cities and surrounding communities to function effectively and harmoniously, using streamlined and connected infrastructure and services.
The latest EU Open Data Maturity Report, published in December 2021, reveals another year of progress by 34 nations surveyed in ongoing efforts to encourage and enable the secure and appropriately regulated sharing of data held by the public sector.
This strong, year-on-year trend is set to continue in 2022 as the EU’s Open Data Directive prompts the actions required to overcome historic barriers and to promote access to public sector datasets with high potential economic and societal impact.
1. Data will be the essential fuel on the journey to intelligent urban ecosystems
The volume and diversity of information freely available from the day-to-day activities of citizens and businesses is growing by the minute. When added to the data held by the public sector, this combination adds significant fuel to the drive by smart cities and territories to deliver innovative, easy-to-access services, that nourish local communities and economies, attract visitors and promote sustainability.
By striking the right balance between the value of open data and the essential principles of data protection and privacy, the smart technology possibilities are endless, especially when real-time data is added to the mix.
Harnessing the Internet of Things and sensors in smart devices can transform service quality and value, such as public transport apps that display not just a bus or train timetable, but optimize the routes based on user-data, making travel easier, more attractive and affordable, convenient and sustainable.
Similarly, a live view of available municipal car parking spaces helps journey planning, cuts urban congestion and illegal parking. Information will also identify those who fail to make parking payments, ensuring that important income is collected. It also helps the uptake of shared car concepts, as smart companies can analyze the data to target neighborhoods that are more ready for the shift (especially those where cars are 99% unused).
The will to move towards intelligent urban ecosystems is already with us. As we showed in our 2020 research Street smart: Putting the citizen at the center of smart city initiatives, most citizens believe that the smart city will lead to more sustainability (58%) and better urban services (57%). The extension of open data, to citizens, academics, businesses and other service providers, will only enhance the ability of cities and wider communities to predict the needs of citizens and create the infrastructure that meets those needs.
And the logical extension of these principles is the expansion of data sharing across borders, between communities, cities, regions and nations, creating connections, sharing benefits (and costs too) and building security.
This digital driven collaboration culture will surely also open doors to another dimension: the Metaverse for cities. For instance, Seoul has announced that it is the first city to create a metaverse by building a virtual communication ecosystem for all areas of its municipal administration, targeted for 2023. We believe that other smart territories can be expected to embrace this idea as well and put it on the table of discussion in 2022.
2. Resilience will be a cornerstone principle of urban planning and development
A recurring challenge for big cities and nations hosting major sporting events, like The Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup, is ensuring that the infrastructure left by the hosts retains value and function as a community asset, long after the athletes and footballers have left.
Recent history paints a mixed picture post-Olympic Games, with the abandoned sports stadia in Rio contrasting with the successful redevelopment of the East End of London, with the former Olympic Stadium nowadays home to Premier League football, concerts, business and cultural events.
COVID-19 has created a similar challenge for businesses and public authorities too, with office buildings and other venues and assets standing largely empty as employees and citizens continue to stay at home in large numbers.
The concept and desirability of Resilient Cities is not new, with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2014 Resilient Cities Challenge delivering transformational results in Rotterdam, Antwerp and Glasgow.
But unique circumstances create unique opportunities and 2022 will see resilience at the heart of infrastructure planning in cities, built around RAMS principles – Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety – providing the flexibility to change the use of buildings and other assets to meet evolving requirements, one off events or emergency situations.
In 2022 urban leaders will have to ask themselves – what do we do with the newly installed COVID-19 infrastructure? Successful cities will make use of the current dip in urban car kilometers, outfitting streets with cycling paths that stimulate healthy transport. By building in resilience, adaptability and multi-usability, cities will become more sustainable and in tune with the evolving needs of citizens, businesses and visitors alike.
3. Smart citizens will increasingly influence public policy in cities
The existence of digital technology in cities is only successful when citizens, businesses and visitors feel confident about using it, and when it adds value and enjoyment to their experience of city life. In 2022 enlightened public authorities will increasingly recognize that encouraging and enabling the participation of citizens is crucial to the achievement of truly smart cities and territories.
This year, the use of digital participation platforms such as Decidim and CONSUL will expand, providing additional, accessible and direct ways for locals to participate in the democratic process, collaborating and co-creating solutions that address grassroots requirements and goals, including devolving budgetary control to community representatives.
There will be more shining examples of this shift towards public co-decision-making, like Barcelona, where Decidim enabled almost 7,000 citizens to participate in the creation of the city’s municipal action plan. In Helsinki, residents were invited to vote on the merits of almost €9 million worth of city projects, with the proposals receiving the most votes getting the go-ahead.
Participatory budgeting is now built into the fabric of government in the Finnish capital, under the headline “The Helsinki of dreams is made together”.
4. Data and cloud computing will make transparency and cybersecurity even more vital
As cities and surrounding communities become more data-driven and data dependent, so the need for more robust and comprehensive cybersecurity counter measures grows too.
But 2022 will also be a year in which the ethical considerations relating to the collection, analysis and increased use of personal data will challenge how that data is used to train machine learning models and create artificial intelligence algorithms. Sharper focus will be required when data is used by multiple interested parties.
Public expectations of transparency about how data is being used, the values, principles and policies underpinning its use and the governance models and accountability of those using it will continue to grow, with organizations less than open about their approach suffering from increased levels of reputational damage. Biases in data sets must actively be fought.
5. Co-ordination and collaboration will continue to keep pace with urbanization
Smart cities and territories have to be human-centric, to make those living, working and visiting feel safe, comfortable and at ease with their surroundings. As millions of people continue to move to urban areas each year, co-ordination and collaboration between neighboring cities, suburbs and communities becomes essential for social cohesion and economic prosperity and sustainability.
Services deliver most value when they are continuous, irrespective of location and jurisdiction, transitioning seamlessly as individuals move around. But achieving this requires co-operation on many levels, political, financial, operational, and technical, and in many places, these are many hurdles yet to be overcome.
But despite the restrictions of COVID-19 remaining in place at the start of 2022, governments, public authorities and citizens are ready to capitalize on new freedoms and new normals. The pandemic has shown that organizations and individuals that are traditionally cautious and slow to act are in fact capable of innovation, agility and speed in a crisis, and intend to take these skills and mindsets into other areas of their lives. It’s a time of profound change.
Our look at 2022 trends in smart territories was compiled in conversation with:
Ecosystem Facilitator, Capgemini Invent
Manager, Capgemini Invent
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