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Significant institutional barriers to creating smart cities, report finds

18 May 2011

Although new technology from the information and communications technology (ICT) industry could help address the growing problems facing urban areas, significant institutional barriers to creating ‘smart’ cities remain, according to independent telecoms and technology analyst Ovum.

In a new report commissioned by Cisco to inform the Smart+Connected Community initiative, Ovum claims that the biggest obstacle to using ICT in the regeneration of urban areas is the limitations of city authorities. The report goes on to state that authorities need a new digital governance framework that will allow them to harness ICT to create smart cities.

Jeremy Green, Ovum principal analyst and author of the report, said, ‘Despite the widespread enthusiasm and excellent ICT tools that can be used to create smart cities, progress has been uneven. This is fundamentally because of the limitations of city governments, which lack the power and resources to carry out wide-scale initiatives. Many have budgets, authority, geographical boundaries and organisational structures that belong to a different era. But unlike a business, they are tied by political constraints that prevent them from conducting comprehensive restructuring programmes.

To help them make the transition to smart city and reap the benefits of the new technologies that have been developed, a new framework for digital urban renewal is needed.’

ICT tools can be used to deal with issues such as climate change, congestion, poor public transport, pollution and pressure on public services. The tools include new and powerful connectivity technologies such as high-speed fixed and mobile broadband, as well as new software. In Europe and North America, smart city projects are typically focused on ‘retro-fitting’ urban areas by overlaying existing infrastructure with ICT. This however, can bring challenges due to the way that the cities have grown, and is in stark contrast to large greenfield projects where the inclusion of ICT infrastructure has been planned from the beginning.

While recognising some leading smart city projects in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Guldborgsund, Rivas and others, the report advises that a new framework is needed. It states that this should allow ‘digital urban planners’ to find a balance between treating each initiative that uses new ICT as a separate project, and implementing an inflexible master plan.

Copyright © 2011 NewNet

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