Do Smart Cities projects impose the cities to review their “business model”?

I recently spoke about the need for cities and local authorities to develop new types of partnerships. But are these partnerships sufficient to enable them to successfully achieve their transition to a Smart City? It seems that they are sufficient to successfully deploy a collection of smart applications but they are notoriously inadequate to rethink the city by taking advantage of the latest technologies.

How do cities must be accompanied to design a Smart City while combining financial issues, technical, sociological and even philosophical? Should they rely on independent advisers, on the most cutting edge corporations or on global suppliers?

Behind these questions lies an equally important issue for cities that are the evolution of the vendors’ business models.

Between the risk of a solution imposed by a vendor seeking a first return on its business investment for cities, on one hand, the valuable and specialized, but insufficiently comprehensive, expertise of many experts, on another hand, classic operating modes available to cities are seldom entirely satisfactory.

It is therefore necessary to innovate, despite the constraints imposed on public players, particularly through the public tenders rules, to invent a way to support policymakers ensuring the overall consistency of their project as well as its economic viability, the achievement of both their medium- and long-term goals and the short term ones.

Two areas seem to me carrying a lot of value:

– To rely on technical architects (regardless the organization they belong to) able to define the main features of all the technical solutions to imagine the links between each of them and their level of interdependence, to ensure the implementation of these solutions comply with fixed orientations and to ensure an overall technical coherence over time, despite successive corrections (inevitable) of the predefined scheme.

– A “global Board” composed of experts recognized in their field and able to coordinate with others. This committee, composed of philosophers, sociologists, urban planners, technical architects, financial managers, has to guarantee the achievement of expected results and to define the best compromise between all aspects of the project. This committee is also the organizational body needed to ensure long-term outcome, that is the main provider of meaning and appropriation of the city by the citizens, and short-term results, expected by politicians to strengthen their position before each election.

Few cities have adopted to date a governance structure that meets all of their issues. Some innovate on a single topic. The guidelines suggested above, or other equally valid, well show the way to go before we can guarantee results in the context of Smart Cities. It may also be facing this difficulty that most cities prefer to deploy a collection of digital applications, relying on time (and on chance) to ensure consistency and viability.

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