Tuesday, 14 Sep 2021  |  Reading time:  12 mins  | Read online

Smart cities – sparking innovation?

Each week we focus on a different global topic, highlighting innovative content and insights from LGIU and our members around the world.  

Please forward this free newsletter to a colleague or share it on social media to help us reach even more people who value local government globally. If you’ve been forwarded this email, join our mailing list to get free, fresh insights from LGIU Global Local each week. Make sure you pick the ‘Global Insight’ package.

A ‘smart city’ may seem like a futuristic concept; widely understood to mean the use of technology to advance a city’s functioning and capabilities.However, municipal leaders are already integrating innovative digital services, from chatbots to embedded sensors, to address existing and future issues.

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the integration of data into municipal operations and exacerbated the associated challenges.

This Global Local edition explores how local authorities can benefit from smart technologies, following global best practice, while remaining alert to the potential risks involved.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be covering the waste and the circular economy for our COP21 focus, and ways to support refugees. If you would like to share a story on our blog or a strategy from your council, fill in this simple form or drop me a line at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org.

Have a story to share? Get in touch!

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This week's featured content

Is a ‘smart city’ a good city?

By Ruth Joan Nelson, LGIU Associate

What is a smart city? A smart city initially indicated an idealised city connected to concepts of automation and technology, but has evolved to include ideas related to sustainability and human-centred design.

The meaning of a smart city may change depending on the context to which it is applied. In the global south, it may aid in providing adequate urban infrastructure to meet the demands made by rapid urbanisation. In the global north, applications may focus on enhancing the use of existing infrastructure.

“Without a clear policy framework and set of objectives, smart governance risks exacerbating existing urban inequalities.”

How can smart cities be used to help communities? For smart city projects to be objective-driven and human-centred, they should focus on improving outcomes and processes, rather than being technology-led, according to Mark Enzer, the Head of the National Digital Twin Programme for Britain.

Enzer proposes that this begins with asking: “What is the technology doing and what problems is the technology solving?”

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research specifically proposes that the South African understanding of smart cities should be based on the principle of inclusivity, aiming to benefit all people and communities.

How can smart technologies best support my area?

LGIU Global Local Highlights


Bundle: Smart cities

This bundle primes local authorities on the issue of smart cities, exploring both the opportunities and limitations the concept presents alongside showcasing an array of global case studies and best practice. 
Read the latest LGIU content here.

Nordic Smart Cities: Using data to improve population health

The pandemic has seen populations more open than ever to helping to collect and report their individual health data for collective outcomes. In this blog, we highlight innovation from the Nordic Smart City Network, where cities are using data from a range of sources to target health and wellbeing issues extending well beyond Covid-19. 
Read the blog here.

Small and connected: innovation as the Faroe Islands lead the way with digital services

Talgildu Føroyar is a digital platform aimed at improving the efficiency of public services and modernising welfare systems in the Faroe Islands. The platform provides us with lessons for the digitalisation of local government services, making for a relevant briefing for officers and members reviewing council services in the context of an increasingly digital environment. 
Read the briefing here.

Innovation & Inspiration

Curated case studies and news from around the globe

US:Chatbot and online platform seek to improve equitable food access in Boston

A new SMS chatbot provides food resources information 24/7 to Boston residents in eight languages and without requiring an internet connection. An online food donations platform has also been launched, allowing locals to reduce food waste and improve access to food for people in need. The services aim to create a more equitable food system in line with the City of Boston’s Food Access Agenda.

Related: ‘Social Connect’ project uses AI to support UK households facing fuel poverty SmartCitiesWorld

UK: Underground asset digital map projected to bring £350m annual benefit

An upcoming digital map of underground pipes and cables seeks to make it easier for UK local authorities to maintain and install crucial infrastructure. Currently, accidental damage to utilities costs an estimated £2.4 billion per year. The National Underground Asset Register map aims to reduce the number of underground obstacles for construction and housing projects and will take three years to complete.
Cities Today / Sarah Wray

Related: Weather sensors to support climate-resilient planning in Australian region SmartCitiesWorld

Mauritius: MediaCity hub planned to bring global creatives to island’s smart city

A planned ‘MediaCity’ intends to make the most of the surging popularity of video streaming services in Africa by bringing international creative and media workers to Mauritius. Located in the Beau Plan smart city, the hub is set to include an educational campus and to be fully open by 2024. However, similar smart city initiatives in Africa have stalled or ended, while rising authoritarianism in Mauritius may put off global companies from joining.
Quartz Africa / Amindeh Blaise Atabong

Related: Digital twin maps electricity use in South African university surrounds IT in Government / Admire Moyo

Denmark: New five-minute city sets global standards for sustainable buildings

A former Copenhagen shipyard is being developed to showcase the highest standards in urban sustainability. The Nordhavn development includes a lab for energy research and development, a warehouse collecting energy data in real-time and a supermarket that can transfer waste heat from cooling to the local network. Extensive urban greening and pedestrian and cycle trails are also planned for Nordhavn, which is also the most expensive area to live in Copenhagen.
Bloomberg / Mary Holland

Related: Shared climate-smart experiment planned to revitalise Swedish district TheMayor.EU / Tzvetozar Vincent Iolov

Policy & Resources

In a blog post outlining Boyd Cohen’s smart cities wheel – a framework for assessing the ‘smartness of cities’ – we look at each of the six dimensions, what they mean and some examples for each, such as: 

Smart government:technology strategy from San Francisco
Smart living:smart neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama
– Smart environment: Dublin’s flood sensing network
– Smart economy: Imagine Boston 2030
– Smart people: school districts going the extra mile during the pandemic
– Smart mobility: Brisbane’s congestion busting smart, connected cities.

Interested in other LGIU Global content?

Global Local Community Champion: Nominations open for 2021 Cllr Awards

Nominations are flooding in for the 2021 LGIU & CCLA Cllr Awards! This year, we are delighted to introduce a new Global Local Community Champion award category that is open to elected local government representatives from across the globe. Nominations can be made by anyone and are open until midnight on Friday 24 September. 
Make sure your council doesn’t miss out – nominate a councillor today!

Bundle: Creating better places with children and young people

In case you missed it, last week's LGIU Global Local bundle highlighted our recent content about how local authorities can work with children and young people to create communities more suited to their needs.

Related event: The OECD Youth Week will examine how decision makers can support and prepare young people for life after the Covid-19 crisis in a virtual event series from 20 to 24 September.

Courses, training and events

LGIU Online Training: Digital for Leaders: what you really need to know

This lively and interactive session aims to remove the jargon and complexity surrounding digital and technology, providing a solid foundation of knowledge for those in leadership positions to ensure their approach is the right one.

LGIU Online Training: Tackling Disinformation Online and Offline

This course will look at how you can mitigate the impact of disinformation online and offline, including considering the importance of facilitating community development; fixing resident issues; watching over council decision-making and acting in your party group to promote your manifesto.

Thanks for reading!

Next week we're back with another special edition of the recap in the run-up to a landmark climate conference: our monthly COP21 newsletter. This time we'll be focusing on the issue of waste, with emphasis on the potential solutions working towards a circular economy may hold.

If you would like to share your story, you can fill in this simple form or drop me a line at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org. Please forward this free newsletter to a colleague or share it on social media to help us reach even more people who value local government globally. We tweet from @GlobalLocalLGIU.

Want more content? Visit our website to access our Global Local briefings, blogs, podcast and more.

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