Smart Cities: A need for a new public-private cooperation

Towns, cities and other local entities, like all their counterparts have long functioned independently of private actors. Both, treat public and private, had their areas of competence and influence clearly defined and distinct. Even their advisors were different and responded to opposite logic. The tenders were acting as pass-through.

Gradually, in many countries, mainly to have the private sector funding public initiatives, in the context of public finances increasingly scarce, both sectors have developed other links.

Both sectors have nevertheless continued to operate and decide according different reasoning schemes and according to very different processes.

The Smart Cities imperceptibly lead cities to radically revise their mode of operation: the complexity of decisions, the need to restore the autonomy of citizens, the lack of expertise in areas such as energy lead to not directly take any decisions but rather to create conditions for development and decisions in respect of a given policy or guidance.

From the upstream orientation phases, city governance must appoint skills able to support on particular technology areas. A new type of cooperation must emerge between public and private. For the first time, both sectors are obliged to collaborate and work together, not necessarily with a view to immediate sale.

The economic reasoning must also evolve: it will no longer be only about public budget but also about the economic balance of all stakeholders. The decision process will therefore have to be adapted. Today, formal studies commissioned by the cities undertake no one; nothing guarantees the feasibility of the recommendations made to the authorities; these studies should give way to a more fluid process to ensure the feasibility and the permanent adaptation of policy choices.

This change does not mean in any case the loss of identity of each of the sectors or the hold-up of one over the other: it will lead the public sector to more fluidity and sobriety and the private sector to continue taking consideration of collective constraints. It is the necessary condition to help Smart Cities projects to grow and be more meaningful.

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