AuthorKlimovsky, Daniel
  1. Introduction

    Smart cities are one vision of the technological future of the information society that is emerging in different countries. The main features of smart cities are management and governance with real-time monitoring of different infrastructural parameters. An overview of existing literature shows a general technical and administrative excitement at the possibility of easier infrastructure management which reduces management costs while also providing the possibility for citizens to get involved in improving the wellbeing of their local community (e.g. Smith, 2012). Furthermore, smart cities aim at improving their competitiveness and their position in comparison with other cities (Begg, 1999). From this perspective, the smart city concept belongs to one of the newest socio-economic concepts. Most of the debate on smart cities focuses on technology and administration. There are, however, some authors who are trying to understand and clarify the relationship between the possibilities for introducing such ICT-driven changes and citizens' interest or willingness to accept such concepts in practice.

    In this article, in the first part we define smart cities and analyze the concept, which is an important administrative innovation, but one that has so far demonstrated only a limited ability to improve citizens' lives in the real world of administration in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries. In the second part, we explain our methodological approach and the sample we have used. The third part presents the empirical results of the survey we have conducted, which are then discussed in the context of our theoretical framework. Based on this, the last part concludes with some general observations and recommendations.

    1.1. The development of the concept of the smart city

    Although the term smart city has become a buzzword in the last decade (for multiple definitions see Mundula and Auci, 2013), its definition is still unclear. The concept is difficult to define (Odendaal, 2003) and the term is used inconsistently in the relevant literature (Tranos and Gertner, 2012). There are several other terms that are often used, such as digital cities, intelligent cities and knowledge-based cities, and therefore some authors--e.g. Schaffers et al. (2011)--speak about the existence of conceptual confusion in regard to the smart city concept. Usually, as stated by Alawadhi et al. (2012) or Shapiro (2006), smart cities are defined in terms of the outcomes of the smart city concept: smart cities are more efficient, sustainable and pleasanter to live in. For instance, Washburn et al. (2010) define the smart city as one that uses smart computing technologies to manage its critical infrastructure and services, which include city administration, education, healthcare, public safety, real estate, transportation and utilities, in a way that is more intelligent, interconnected and efficient.

    The smart city concept understands ICTs in a very broad sense. This means that the utilization of smart technologies may vary very much, from intelligent energy technologies (see for example Yamagata and Seya, 2013), through intelligent traffic regulation to intelligent security systems. In other words, the use of ICTs is a core feature of the smart city concept (Fusco, Lombardi and Nijkamp, 2009; Lee, Phaal and Lee, 2013; Walravens, 2012). The stress on the use of the ICTs takes us, however, to the concept of e-governance, which is defined, for instance by the World Bank, as the use by government agencies of information technologies that have the ability to transform relationships with citizens, businesses and other arms of government (Steins, 2002, p. 18). Intelligence linked to smart cities is considered to be the inner quality of any territory, place, city or region where innovation processes are facilitated by ICTs. What varies is the degree of intelligence, which depends on the personnel, the system of cooperation, and the digital infrastructure and tools that a community offers to its residents (Komninos, 2002). The smart city concept implies that a city has the ambition of improving its economic, social and environmental standards, and consequently also its competitiveness compared to other cities (Giffinger et al., 2007; Giffinger, Haindlmaier and Kramar, 2010). This leads us to the definition of smart cities, as presented by Caragliu, Del Bo and Nijkamp (2009), where every city that has the ambition to be considered a smart city must invest in both human and social capital (see also O'Connell, 2008), and in both traditional and modern infrastructure, as these are the driving forces of sustainable economic development. On the other hand, Hollands (2008) is far more critical of the concept. Among the main criticisms are the inability to define what 'smart' means, the self-importance of 'smart cities' (referred to as a 'market based self-advertisement without substance'), and the unsubstantiated belief that technology will transform the behavior within a city.

    Despite the fact that there has already been some academic research of the smart city concept (e.g. Meijer and Rodriguez Bolivar, 2013), if we look at the CEE countries, we find a lack of systematic research in this field, despite some earlier surveys (e.g. Ifinedo and Davidrajuh, 2005; Giffinger et al., 2007; Roztocki and Weistroffer, 2008). However, although the concept and related issues have not been the subject of extensive scholarly analysis, they have moved well beyond mere theory into experimentation in practice and full implementation by city governments (Linders, 2012, p. 446). Hollands (2008) refers to the list of cities proclaiming themselves as smart, e.g. San Diego, Ottawa, Amsterdam, Manchester, Edinburgh. The European Commission also discussed smart cities in the EU 2020 Strategy (EC, 2010) and presented its own communication on 'Smart Cities and Communities--European Innovation Partnership' in July 2012 (EC(2012) 4701). According to this document, the smart cities and communities concept is trying to promote 'progress in areas where energy production, distribution and use; mobility and transport; and information and communication technologies (ICT) are intimately linked and offer new interdisciplinary opportunities to improve services while reducing energy and resource consumption and greenhouse gas and other polluting emissions'.

    Most research and literature is imbued with a general optimism about the use of technology and how new technologies bring new opportunities. However, almost no attention is paid to how citizens perceive smart cities and whether they are an option they are willing to implement. Our research tries to address this gap in the literature. It investigates the potential for implementing smart cities by using two case studies from CEE countries. Since smart cities are a rather new and unknown concept for the general population (even if the term is sometimes used), we examined whether people would accept the possibility that their lives could be improved by the use of technologies. This is especially important in cases where the participation of local residents is expected to enable the potential of certain technologies to be used in full. However, various authors (Bannister and Connolli, 2012; Ostling, 2010; Davies, 2009) have realized that ICT-supported participation does not provide any significant improvement in residents' engagement with public affairs.

    Giffinger et al. (2007) define 'smart people' as one of six sets of 'smart' characteristics that are a precondition for the introduction of smart cities. The characteristics of 'smart people' are the level of qualifications, affinity to life-long learning, social and ethnic plurality, flexibility, creativity, cosmopolitanism/open-mindedness and participation in public life. Even when these elements are present, they show that human and social capital can jeopardize the project of smart city development.

    1.2. Smart cities as perceived by their residents

    Smart cities can be understood as enabling individuals to indicate which of their needs are not met, to report their needs and to have a reasonable expectation that local authorities will help them satisfy their needs. This was observed in the case of Singapore by the end of the last century (see Mahizhnan, 1999). Such an approach supports the general idea of participatory governance as part of today's mainstream politics (e.g. Linders, 2012). Since modern public sector resources and capacities are inadequate for the scale of public needs, solutions also need to mobilize the efforts of the business and associational sectors (Lovan, Murray and Shaffer, 2005). In other words, this means the empowerment of residents to do what they need, within the general limits of acceptable behavior. However, public participation is far from being a cure-all tool. In recent years, some authors, such as Mosse (2001), Cleaver (2001) or Beall and Hall (2005), have pointed out that there are some shortcomings which make the outcomes of public participation very relative. On the one hand, the state has expanded its activities into too many fields. The fact that both resources and government efficiency are insufficient should lead us to reflect on how governments could carry out their functions more effectively. Government failures are also frequently linked to the fact that sub-optimal results serve the interests of certain politicians and government officials (Mitlin and Satterthwaite, 2004; Coursey and Norris, 2008; Paulin, 2013). A new allocation of competences between government and society is needed in order to give citizens more responsibilities and possibilities to act on their own. There is a need for more opportunities to develop citizens' initiatives (Schulte, 2001). Although the combination of allowing more participation and less state influence appears ideal, in practice what happens is often the exact opposite. New technologies...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT