A survey reveals that city living is falling short for many people in the digital age and more than a third of citizens are willing to pay for more enriched digital services.
Only one in 10 global city officials are in the advanced stages of implementing a smart city vision, and less than a quarter (22 per cent) have begun implementing smart city initiatives, new research finds.
According to the Capgemini Research Institute report, many citizens are frustrated with the current set up of the city in which they live and are prepared to show their opinion by leaving for a more digitally advanced city.
Street Smart: putting the citizen at the centre of smart city initiatives found, on average, two in five residents may leave their city in the future due to a variety of pain points including digital frustrations.
The report is based on responses from 10,000 citizens and more than 300 city officials across 10 countries and 58 cities.
Three fifths of citizens (58 per cent) perceive smart cities as sustainable and that they provide a better quality of urban services (57 per cent). For that reason, more than a third (36 per cent) are willing to pay more for this enriched urban existence. However, the report warns data and funding pose serious challenges to implementation.
This is even more troubling, Capgemini notes, as two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in a city by 2050, with the number of megacities set to rise from 33 today to 43 by 2030. Moreover, as there is considerable global desire for smart cities among citizens, meaning an accelerated approach would be well received.
“It has become crucial for city planners and officials to realise that the citizens are the smartest asset a city has and to put them at the centre of smart city initiatives”
According to the research, sustainability is of increased importance for urbanites. Citizens find challenges such as pollution (42 per cent) and lack of sustainability initiatives (36 per cent) a major concern and may leave their city as a result.
However, over the past three years, 42 per cent of city officials report that sustainability initiatives have lagged, and 41 per cent say their cities becoming unsustainable over the next 5-10 years is one of the top five consequences of not adopting digital technology.
While smart city initiatives can lead to improvements across urban services, Capgemini has found that perception is key, and that the benefits aren’t just limited to tangible outcomes. Citizens using smart city initiatives are happier with the quality of their city life.
For example, three-quarters (73 per cent) say they are happier with their quality of life in terms of health factors, such as air quality. However, this drops sharply to 56 per cent among those who have not used a smart city initiative.
More than a third of citizens (36 per cent) are willing to pay to live in a smart city. This figure rises for younger and richer citizens: 44 per cent among millennials, 41 per cent among Gen Z respondents and 43 per cent among those earning more than $80,000.
“City officials must work to ensure that technology-led interventions give people the experience and quality of life that they want and need”
Although smart cities can solve some of the traditional pain points experienced in cities, such as public transport and security, serious challenges to implementation exist.
Data is central to smart city optimisation, yet two-thirds (63 per cent) of global citizens say the privacy of their personal data is more important than superior urban services.
Meanwhile, 70 per cent of city officials say that funding their budget is a major challenge, and 68 per cent of officials say they struggle to access and build the digital platforms needed to develop smart city initiatives.
Capgemini also found that as the world tackles Covid-19, city officials are using technology to address some of the challenges faced by the global pandemic.
Seven in 10 (68 per cent) of city officials have found that digital initiatives like apps which connect people to healthcare facilities or provide remote patient monitoring are helping them to manage the crisis.
The city of Bengaluru, India, repurposed its command centre into a “war room” to follow patients and draw up containment plans using heat mapping technologies. In Rome, airport staff are using smart helmets with augmented reality and thermal scanners to screen multiple visitors simultaneously while maintaining a safe distance.
“Smart city perception and status have become an important differentiator for citizens. It has become crucial for city planners and officials to realise that the citizens are the smartest asset a city has and to put them at the centre of smart city initiatives,” said Pierre-Adrien Hanania, Capgemini’s global offer leader for AI in the public sector.
“City officials must work to ensure that technology-led interventions give people the experience and quality of life that they want and need. By doing so, cities will avoid their inhabitants leaving for another city and will enhance their digitisation pathway, benefiting of the willingness of citizen to invest in their home.”
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