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Smart cities are developing more successfully in a supportive environment

The common characteristic of cities that have thrived toward smart city development in recent years is that these cities did not reach such breakthroughs alone, but supported by various and obviously the right partners.

The good news is that one of the key city partners during the smart city development process are becoming state governments. Many smart city success stories are coming from the countries that have a more active policy of encouraging the development of smart cities. Recently, Indian government completed their first Smart City Challenge. During this process, they received 97 development projects and selected the top 20 cities to receive a financial support for their projects’ implementation. The U.S. Department of Transportation is enthusiastic by the received city project proposals within their Smart City Challenge on how to improve the sustainability of transport as well. Currently, they are choosing the winning city among the 7 finalists, which will be granted with over $40 million of financial incentive for the implementation of the project of sustainable transportation. Their goal is to show what is possible when communities use technology for the integration of transport modes in an interactive network.

However, such competitions should not become the most important or even the only measurement for encouraging cities to enhance the smart city transformation. The role of the government is primarily to create an environment in which cities will be able to maximize their optimal development. Clear, ambitious, and long-term objectives being set on the national level and supported by national long-term investment plan to promote innovation in cities, are among crucial smart city accelerators of every country. Based on these long-term strategies, cities can further create localized development strategies and achievable goals, and implement them efficiently in cooperation with the relevant local partners and residents.

At the end of last year, an ambitious plan for the development of their smart cities was presented by U.S. president Barack Obama. The country plans to invest over $160 million in federal research and leverage more than 25 new technology projects to assist local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.

India has set a bold smart city development plan as well to improve the quality of life of the 100 fastest growing urban centers. They anticipate to invest around $7.5 billion in the following years. And the results of their first Smart City Challenge and their development plans place India among the most influential smart city development countries.

In Europe, Great Britain is one of the most successful countries with long-term vision for the development of smart cities. Since 2013, the British Government with partners conducted a comprehensive five-year plan comprising investment of £95 million in research on smart cities, £50 million in research on smart cities, £50 million in a development center Future Cities Catapult, and £33 million in the development of demo smart cities of the future. As a first demo smart city the city of Glasgow received a £24 million prize within the national competition. The city is currently developing solutions for improving the quality of life in the city and represents and exciting potential of smart city technologies. Bristol, Manchester, London and many other British cities are building successful smart city stories as well.

Besides the importance of the national strategies, a recent Chinese study indicates how valuable is active cooperation among the government and IT companies for Chinese smart city development as well. The country plans to invest €561 billion in the development of infrastructure and social development. China understands smart city development as their key strategy to promote country’s industrialization and urbanization. So far, the country managed to set a 193 successful pilot smart city projects.

However, unresponsive national governments should not be a cause of passivity of cities. Cities shouldn’t wait for encouragements from the environment, but must become the initiators of smart city development. In cooperation with stakeholders, a city can set local development strategy with achievable goals and define key development projects accordingly. To monitor the implementation of such strategy in a smart and transparent manner and in cooperation with the residents, smart solutions are already available.

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