The terms “Smart City” and “Smart Community” may seem very similar but they are two totally different concepts, although, there are many confusions between both. However, they can become a complement, contributing valuable goals to the construction of intelligent cities.
In this article we will see how they differ, as well as those points in common that can contribute so much in the exciting and at the same time complicated challenge that suppose the construction of tomorrow’s cities.
Smarts Cities: An Integral Concept
Smart City’s main objective is to make citizens’ lives easier in every possible way – sustainability, transportation, etc. – using data collection and measurement as one of the essential tools. However, the development of Smart City is so focused on the technology that goes from being a simple tool to the main focus of it, far from being the desired result at the social level.
In fact, global trend turns ICT into a simple facilitator of goals that seek sustainability. An example is the 17 sustainable development goals (ODS) and 169 goals for a better future, as set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.
They are purpose-oriented poverty eradication and sustainable development at the time, established on the basis of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000, which are intended to be achieved by the means established by the Agenda for Action Addis Ababa.
On the other hand, the European Union contributes to achieving them by legislating for sustainable development in different areas, mainly environmental, social and economic. Its ultimate goal is multiple: to reduce social inequalities, to improve infrastructure, citizen participation, quality of life and, at the ecological level, to achieve a more respectful management of natural resources.
A global framework in which a sustainability-oriented Smart City is considered key in an increasingly populated, urbanized, globalized, competitive and technologically world. Not in vain, the digital era in which we are immersed is an essential point when defining the Smart Community, a concept that transcends the one of Smart City.
Smart Community: The Coming World
If greater efficiency in rendering municipal services, and in general suggestion, is the goal of smart cities, Smart Communities seeks to thrive in a context of broadband economy, its engine and reason for being.
In this sense, putting the focus on the community, as the same term indicates, seeks to make better cities betting on an option of progress that seeks the balance between the local economy and globalization.
Regardless of the size of the city, whether urban or rural, the objective is to improve its competitiveness and standard of living. Information and communications technology is used to build “inclusive prosperity, solve social problems and enrich their quality of life in our connected century,” according to the Intelligent Community Forum vision.
¿Smart cities vs Smart Communities?
To establish an irreconcilable difference of both concepts means to attribute to Smart City a meaning exempt from the strategic planning tending towards sustainability and, finally, the search for a better society. However, as we have pointed out, the opposite happens: the current trend moves us away from simply improving the endowments through the use of ICT.
Therefore, we should not always oppose Smart Cities vs. Smart Communities. In a sense, the fact that it is about emerging concepts makes them into flexible terms, in constant revision and evolution. If we emphasize only one aspect, we leave aside its multi-objective orientation, based on sustainability, as well as its holistic component, necessary to move forward gradually, always within a scalable vision.
From a multidimensional approach, the actors involved in the Smart City project belong to both the public and private sectors, focusing on different geographical objectives (city, neighborhood, smart building, etc.) or sectors related to energy, water, transport, and other municipal services.
Another of the goals of smart cities is to improve the quality of communications in order to achieve greater availability and reliability of themselves, which is key to transmitting knowledge and promoting the broadband economy.
A point that, in addition, directly links with the concept of Smart Community, fundamental to increase the urban competitiveness or the geographical location in question, while having a better quality of life for the citizen.
But not only that, application examples in smart cities are very numerous, and the practice itself presents unexpected novelties that help to increase the casuistry, from which to learn and replicate.
The objectives of Smart Cities and Smart Communities are in many cases crossed. Without going any further, the pressures of the broadband economy, always in search of talent, on the one hand allow to carry out projects that bring money to the community, but on the other hand represent a great challenge and great competitive pressures at the local level.
Their skills, services and products need external markets, without this being detrimental in terms of sustainability. Quite the contrary, both Smart City and Smart Community strategies require sustainability-based approaches as an obligatory framework for action.
Similarly, as we have seen, Smart City should be built ideally on a project that understands sustainability as an essential aspect of any project, whose implementation is scalable. Therefore, a joint design taking into account both approaches would be a winning bet to improve both projects.
By taking advantage of positive synergies and having a participation among the different social actors that achieve a beneficial interaction for the progress of a community in a global context, as well as to facilitate municipal management understood from a participatory approach.
In both cases, on the other hand, the challenge is set to carry out innovations that reduce the negative impacts of the broadband economy on job creation. As more skills are needed in the workforce and increased competition in the connected world, the municipal government must adapt and innovate to boost job creation.
Towards an inclusive visión
Building the concept of Smart City also involves including factors that act as the engine of social capital, while it will achieve a positive benefit spiral of positive feedback. It is a matter of not giving up essential importance to aspects considered essential to convert a city, space or territory into intelligent.
In this sense, Smart Cities must include the objectives of Smart Communities. Their differences, are complemented in the practice, understanding the intelligent city as a sustainable system of great complexity.
Different processes coexist, drawing a much more complex panorama than that attributed to popular level, although there are always common elements that constitute necessary requirements.
Markess International’s survey of 2012 about more than a hundred local communities, for example, established three main aspects of all smart territory, such as good communication and user interaction among users, efficient collection and distribution of data, development of new forms of cooperation.
The term smart applied to populated areas, especially cities, but not only these, aims both to meet municipal management needs and citizen participation as well as to improve the quality of life in an integral way. In this sense, without a doubt, Smart City encompasses the Smart Community, and also in reverse. Rather than contrast, betting on an inclusive vision will add intelligence to the project.