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Understanding the smart social citizen and digital society

13 Oct 2016

The smart city is evolving to include more citizen-led solutions powered by personal technologies that both challenge and stimulate digital society.

This is the focus of  Market Insight: Disruptive Macro Trends for 2025 - Smart Social Citizens Shape Digital Society, a research note I co-authored with Anthony Mullen, a Gartner analyst in our Personal Technologies research group.

This note is part of Anthony’s series: Disruptive Macro Trends for 2025 Personal Tech Market. At Gartner, we often have the opportunity to partner with other analysts on interesting research topics. Our mutual work on trends enabled us to connect the dots across our different lines of research.

In this note, we discuss the role of personal technologies within smart cities. We build on the work of Bettina Tratz-Ryan, Gartner’s expert on the smart city, which we define as “an urbanised area where multiple sectors cooperate to achieve sustainable outcomes through the analysis of contextual real-time information shared among sector-specific information and operational technology (OT) systems.”

The operating elements of a smart city typically include building, public services, education, utilities, healthcare and transportation. So far, there have been two approaches to the smart city.

Government-led: Where government and business undertake city-funded projects around infrastructure, communicating the benefits to citizens.
Citizen-led: Where cities enable or leverage citizen entrepreneurship; often associated with a strong sense of community, collaboration and self-organisation.

As we look ahead to 2025, we see these two approaches converging. Where governments and business provide long-term investment, infrastructure, scale and simple governance, citizens and communities innovate, collaborate and evolve solutions with startups and personal technologies. This research note explores:

  • Mature and emerging personal technologies for citizen-led smart city solutions
  • The triple tipping point of economic, socio-cultural and technological conditions for developing more powerful citizen-led approaches
  • Key facts around urbanisation and smart cities
  • Technology categories enabling bottom-op (Citizen-Led) approaches for smart cities
  • Related macro-trend indicators in politics, environment, ethics, regulation and economics
  • The business impact for personal technology companies

While smart city solutions by governments will become part of citizens’ lives, so too will citizen-sourced innovation become a part of government and the city. Citizens will use personal technologies to enrich contextual data for use in smart city marketplaces as well as co-create bottom-up solutions for their city using open and personal data, P2P networks, richer content-creation tools and zero-code development solutions.

It is not enough to envision citizens as passive users of city services and sources of data, but to ensure they have the agency and the ability to take control and shape their own communities. Ultimately, it is citizen participation, not infrastructure, which makes a city smart. Strategic planners at personal technology companies have a wealth of opportunities to be key players in this macro trend.

Article by Don Scheibenreif, Gartner blog network

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