Smart, Smarter, Smartest Cities - Can They Help to Revive the Economy in Western Europe?

IDC Analyst Opinion on European Smart Cities Initiative
(PresseBox) (Frankfurt am Main, ) Jan A. Duffy, EMEA Research Director, IDC Government Insights, comments:

The European Union (EU) has demonstrated leadership by aggressively moving the smart city/sustainable energy agenda forward. In its recent communication "Energy 2020 - A Strategy for Competitive, Sustainable, and Secure Energy," the European Commission identified the Smart Cities Initiative as a project of European dimension for energy efficiency and for accelerating the large-scale deployment of innovative low-carbon technologies. Earlier this year, the Commission launched an Industrial Initiative on "energy saving solutions in cities." In the interest of increasing the potential for EU Member States to achieve the carbon reduction goals established for 2020, the Commission has proposed a series of simple but ambitious measures involving individuals, business, government bodies, and energy regulators.

Is this enough? In my opinion it's a very good start. Smart cities will be sustainable cities, but there is much more to be done. It is not enough to focus on reducing CO2 emissions. A recent study by the Center of Regional Science at the Vienna University of Technology ("Smart Cities: Ranking of European Medium-Sized Cities") identifies six characteristics for further elaboration of the smart city: a smart economy, smart mobility, a smart environment, smart people, smart living, and smart governance. These generally reflect elements cited in traditional theories around successful urban growth and development.

Difficult to measure because of the many discrete but interconnected elements, the smart city in 2011 is a place that people want to inhabit, businesses want to invest in, and other cities want to emulate. It is a social institution that comprises four key elements: physical plant, social nucleus, commercial enterprise, and the organs of government, education, and social service. It is with this as a backdrop that ICT has increased in importance and the concept of the "smart city" will continue to evolve. The journey is as much about the social fabric of a city as it is about the physical infrastructure, but one thing is certain: it represents an opportunity for those with courage and vision to make much needed changes to the way cities function today.

Smart cities have many elements, involving multiple potential partners. It is the role of the policymaker to facilitate a win-win scenario and it is the role of the city manager to manage the relationships between all of the partners and public and private sector. Some of the partnerships could involve new legal entities, others may have new risk/reward models, yet others will be less formal but nonetheless will be important. Innovation and open-minded thinking on the part of policymakers and city managers are necessary if cities are to make the positive change that is needed to become smart.

More insights are revealed in the IDC Government Insights report Perspective: Smart, Smarter, Smartest Cities - Can They Help to Revive the Economy in Western Europe? (IDC Government Insights #GITD52T, August 2011). For more information or to arrange an interview with Jan Duffy, please contact Kanupriya at


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