Smart cities aren’t just a vision for the future – they are being developed now across the world. However, not everyone’s smart city reality is the same. In a few places, advanced communications permeate nearly every level of public and private life, with a programmable platform where citizens, businesses and government service institutions can ‘slice’ the network in thousands of ways for their own uses. In others regions, the smart cities vision takes shape in smaller scale initiatives, serving specific innovations and ‘digital elites,’ helping to disseminate smart service adoption. And of course there are still many parts of the globe where smart city remains a dream for the future – one that will transform governmental services and overall quality of life. Even there, innovators already are hatching plans and looking for a way forward.
The difference between promise and reality in all of these places comes down to the boundaries that stand in the way of the ultimate smart city, whether those are structural, socio-economic or regulatory.
How to overcome these boundaries to promote smart city growth was the topic at Nokia’s Mobile World Congress 2016 Governmental Roundtable in Barcelona this past February. There, an outstanding panel of public- and private-sector experts representing multiple continents weighed in with some great observations on where we are now and the best paths forward. Panelists included Antonio Garcia-Zaballos, Lead Specialist, Telecommunications Competitiveness and Innovation at IADB; Jay Hedley, Managing Director of Global Practice Lead-Connected Spaces for Accenture; Kamal Shehadi, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer with the Etisalat Group; Sébastien Soriano, Chairman of the French telecom regulator, ARCEP; Paul Wilson, Managing Director for Bristol is Open and the moderator Andrea Faggiano, Associate Director at Arthur D. Little Global Management Consulting.
The wide-ranging and insightful discussion answered many of the key questions facing the global smart city movement. What new sort of regulatory dialog is needed to lay the groundwork for progress, and why (as one panelist suggested) should regulators not act at this time? What do you do if the local or regional governments simply can’t come up with the necessary financing for a smart city project, and how do you grow funding once your project is seeded? What are the inherent structural boundaries in ‘brownfield’ smart city projects, and what are the best solutions for overcoming them? Why are smart cities an important investment even in the poorest countries, and (again), how do you come up with the money in those places? In what critical ways will socio-economic boundaries impact the success of any project? Is there a way to shape those, or are they simply a given? Finally, why are the two principles of aggregating multiple stakeholders and seeking a 360-degree perspective so important to addressing any of these boundaries?
Take 3 steps forward
The panel ultimately decided that the way forward can be negotiated with a three-step approach:
- Take the time to understand the issues and the various technologies before acting.
- Make sure the game is open to all vendors, platforms and technologies.
- Build confidence by understanding the business cases.
Sounds simple, but the details are what could make a difference between the promise and the reality of your smart city. Our report on the roundtable is well worth the read, and can be found here.
See recent customer case: Dubai government security networks operator Nedaa selects Nokia to deliver next-generation network for mission-critical and smart city services.
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