Almost five years ago, amidst the initial hype of the technology-driven “smart city,” we published a report urging cities to take a step back. While talking to the early digital pioneers within city government, these leaders expressed to us that technological development was happening faster than their agencies could keep up. In response, we proposed judging “smartness” by whether places had developed a clear vision to guide their digital future, rather than by how many sensors and software systems they had installed.
Since our report was published, public and private consensus has caught up. Public officials and technology developers now consistently start smart city conversations with a focus on place-based outcomes. At the national level, we can see this through calls to focus on people and redefine citizen engagement. In specific cities, like Kansas City and Boston, grand strategies and guiding principles undergird major projects.
Yet even in the most digitally advanced places, there is still work to do. As we enter this next evolution of smart city development, what are the specific strategies needed to bring a smart city vision to reality?