Smart Cities and the Idea of Smartness in Urban Development - A Critical Review

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Husar M., Ondrejicka V., Varis S. C.

World Multidisciplinary Civil Engineering-Architecture-Urban Planning Symposium (WMCAUS), Prague, Czech Republic, 12 - 16 June 2017, vol.245 identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • Volume: 245
  • Doi Number: 10.1088/1757-899x/245/8/082008
  • City: Prague
  • Country: Czech Republic
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The concept of smart cities is becoming another mantra for both developing and developed cities. For instance, Indian government in 2015 announced its objective to build one hundred smart cities all over the country. They clearly stated that they are choosing smart development as the underlying concept for their future growth as a way to foster economic development in smart way to avoid the paths of rapid industrialization and pollution of cities as it took place in Europe and United States. The first of these smart cities, Dholera, is already under construction and it attracts journalists and urban planners from all over the world. The aim of this paper is to critically discuss the theoretical backgrounds and the practices of smart cities and examine the ways the concept is implemented. The paper is based on thorough study of literature and examining the two case studies of Dholera (India) and Songdo (South Korea). Smart city is a contested concept without a unified definition. It stems from the idea of digital and information city promoted using information and communication technologies (ICT) to develop cities. By installation of ICT municipalities obtain large sets of data which are then transformed into effective urban policies. One of the pilot projects of this kind was Rio de Janeiro and building the Center of Operations by IBM Company. City made a great investment into the smart information system before two huge events took place -FIFA World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games in 2016. The project raised many questions including whether and how it improved the life of its citizens and in what way it made the city smart. The other definition of smart city is the idea of smartness in city development in broader sense. It focuses on smart use of resources, smart and effective management and smart social inclusion. Within this view, the ICTs are one component of the concept, by no means its bread and butter. Technologies can be used in a variety of ways. Problem occurs when smart city is viewed as means to make investments from city budgets by any price, by promoting use of smart technologies as the only way forward, as necessity. Many companies, including technological giants IBM and CISCO already participate on many smart city projects supplying technologies for smart city projects. In this study, we are looking into two case studies, the city of Dholera in India and city of Songdo in South Korea, both pompous large scale projects. Smart City technologies are growing market which is projected to be annually worth 20 billion dollars by 2020 [ 19], with IBM participating in 2000 projects accounting for 3 billion dollars [ 19]. There are many concerns about these developments, among them the issue of equity, whose purposes the projects are serving, how these initiatives are developing cities and the general idea of smartness in urban context. The research concludes that the ambiguity of smart city definition allowing multiple interpretations is frequently bent and used to promote the lobbying of strong players in cities and in private sector.