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Grandma, what's a Smart City?

Does your Grandma know what a Smart City is?

If not, then we are doing it wrong! We are building Smart Cities for the people after all, so shouldn’t they be familiar with the concept? Shouldn’t Smart Citizens know they are a part of a Smart eco-system?

The conversations I’ve been having lately have been wide and varied when it comes to Smart Cities but one of the key themes has been people - by the people, for the people (thanks Lincoln). Particularly, about how we bring the community into the loop when creating and building Smart Cities.

As Katharine Willis, Associate Professor at Plymouth University, said in Episode 12 of The Smart City Podcast “one of the challenges with Smart City is when you ask anybody about it there’s a different answer depending on who you speak to. So just establishing a common ground initially about what you all agree Smart is and what you want to achieve with it, is a really good approach.”

To add to this, when we are developing a Smart City project: first, we need to ask the community if they know what a Smart City is all about, and second, is this something they want? And if it isn’t, what is it that they do actually want?

You might be thinking at this point that all hope is lost, but fear not! Just because someone doesn’t know the term Smart City, it doesn’t mean we’ve completely lost sight of what’s important. We need to listen to what the people are saying; if they are describing the aspects of what a Smart City sets out to achieve, fantastic! But let’s really establish a common language so we can work towards a common goal.

And you know what? Smart will look different in different places, different projects and from different perspectives, but essentially we need to co-create a shared vision. A vision that is Smart, a vision where we focus on what the community wants/needs/desires and a vision where we utilise the most relevant and appropriate technology to enable this. We do this to make cities, spaces and places more accessible, liveable and just cool places to be. Simple right? Don’t worry we are getting there!

So next time someone asks you - what is a Smart City? Let Grandma explain because she is what a Smart City is all about.

For more information about what constitutes a Smart City and how to create one effectively, check out the range of supporting resources by the Smart Cities Council, such as the Smart Cities Readiness Guide and the Smart Cities Guide for Built Environment Consultants, which is a result of a collaboration between Smart Cities Council ANZ, Consult Australia and their respective members.

Stay tuned into the Smart City conversation on Twitter and Instagram @SCC_innovators and at

This article has been written by Zoe Eather - Host of The Smart City Podcast and founding member of Smart Cities Council Emerging Innovators.



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