Urban Transport Community of Practice

Discussion » eDiscussion #2 - Smart cities and connectivity - how do you see the way forward?

eDiscussion #2 - Smart cities and connectivity - how do you see the way forward?

Dear UT CoP members,

Thank you for participating in our Ideation Contest and selecting, by casting your votes, the topic of our eDiscussion, namely: Smart cities and connectivity - how do you see the way forward?

In order to set stage for our discussion on such a timely and complex issue I would like to point out several layers that could be addressed during this conversation:

- connectivity and economic growth: building smart cities and ensuring connectivity is key for future economic growth. According to Frost and Sullivan's Urbanisation Trends in the 2020 report, building smart cities is expected to create opportunities worth US $1,500 billion over the next 5 years. Building smart cities is high on the agenda of growing economies and not only - for example, Indonesia Government is spending aprox. US$ 2.4 million to build Smart City Jakarta.

- building smart cities to deal with traffic congestion and other urban challenges - some countries and cities are turning to smart tech to see how they can best deal with urban challenges such as congestion and getting adequate connectivity. Picking just one example out of many, the Smart Oxford Project Board in partnership with an Internet registry leader, Nominet are currently exploring how the city of Oxford can overcome challenges like congestion and connectivity by using smart technology.

- creating smart cities focused on user friendliness and connectivity and eco-awareness.


Starting from these premises, join the discussion in this thread where panelists from different fields provide online facilitation to answer your questions/comments.


The eDiscussion will kick off at 10am on Thursday, May 7th and go to 10 am EST the next Thursday, May 14th.


Please comment, raise questions, and connect with your peers. I hope you all enjoy the conversations!



  • eDiscussions
  •  |   2

    Dear UT CoP members,

    The discussion is offically live so please share your thoughts and comments on the topic! We would love to hear from as many of our members as possible!

    Looking forward to a very productive conversation,



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  • Good point Saul. We have to become smarter citizens in order to move forward. But I wonder how to get governments committed to embrace the concept of smart city. I mean, for example, in cities where smartphones are really common but the government has no money at all to even implement intelligent traffic lights. A good example is Guadalajara /Mexico. A great metropolitan zone but you can count on one hand the numbers of traffic light for pedestrians...Everybody has smartphones but the government has no money (nor wish) to do any better to the city... By the other hand, people try to make something work, for example, one big school has a facebook private group and when there is an event for parents they can connect to this group and check who lives where and get some car pooling. Smart citizens in a not so smart city...

    And I was wondering about Daniel's concern, the issue of automobile transport becoming increasingly attractive relative to public transport. I believe that the importance of the dimension for Environment has been increasing lately when we talk about smart cities. Smart cities has no more the concept only for a connected city but the concept has changed and nowadays it means a connected city where people can get a better quality of life. And here comes the importance of one of the  Environment indicators: land use integrated with transport. Cities have been re-thinking about land use in order to decrease long distance/time trips and to change to multimodal transportation, even better to non motorised ones. Private cars, in a future, will be one of these modals...

    So, Daniel, I think that if private cars are going to be more attractive, the public transportation is also getting better - in the case of smart cities. For example, Stockholm, where you can plan your trip and pay for it using your mobile, where you have wifi inside the buses, some seats can be changed to make room for a meeting , you have access to food and drink to have breakfast while you travel comfortably,etc.

    I don't believe in  radically shift toward either public or private transport for no, but we absolutely have to think about new ways to finance these new technology developments otherwise we might need a little bit of the Singapore radicalism....

  •  |   1

    Thank you Andrea, Daniel and Saul for a kicking off our discussion in such an interesting and multifaceted manner! The multiple approaches that you have presented in your comments are all extremely relevant.

    Clearly, as Saul pointed out, a city will only be a smart city if its inhabitants embrace these new approaches. As Andrea emphasized, in real life, smart citizens sometimes don't live in smart cities...but they might slowly but surely contribute to a change in behavior and to the city working smarter.

    Another nuance that I think it's very important to our conversation and that Saul pointed out to is the importance of using the technology people already use in their everyday lives to help cities become "smarter" and/or more sustainable.

    At this point in our discussion, I think it's also interesting to tackle the motivation factor: how do you motivate citizens/and public authorities to use connectivity towards making their cities and their future more sustainable?

    I read recently about a project by University College London that analyzed how sharing people's personal data around their behavior would lead them to change their habits. The inhabitants of a specific street in London engaged in this project which looked into decreasing the energy usage. Every evening people received a text asking them to check how much electricity they used that day. The data was transformed into an infographic so that people could see how they were doing compared to other people. This component of gamification saw energy usage drop 16% in a month.

    Andrea's example with the small community and car pooling is very relevant in this context - this kind of community could set an example and encourage others to use connectivity and get "smarter".

    How do the others see the motivation factor and do you think this works for the public authorities? And picking up on Daniel's point, what would/might motivate public authorities and investors to ensure that technological developments in public transport keep up with developments in automobile technology?

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  • As Saul indicated earlier, the concept of 'Smart Cities' needs a much clearer definition though based on observable trends we can consider it to be more inclined towards use of modern technology in creating a safer, more efficient and habitable environment. A city that takes advantage of available technology to make the life of its citizens better in all available areas - transportation, human settlements, water, garbage collection, maintenance etc. There are many ways in which this is happening e.g. in Nairobi you can pay your parking fees, asses traffic situations via various mobile apps. However, the planning aspect cannot be ignored - transportation, land use etc. The use of ITS best comes to boost an already working system and is not a solution on its own.

  • Hi everybody, I agree with the affirmation that Smart cities is not a clear concept because of it can be apply in different ways such as, street lighting, public transport, water supply, etc. I think that this is very board term, all of them have in common the use of new technologies with the aim of, for example, energy savings, increase comfort, reduce pollution, etc. and this makes the cities more sustainable. This is the only way, we are living in a limited resources environment (land, energy, water, fuel, etc.) so, step by step, politicians and citizens have realized that there is no other way and started to demand more sustainable way of live. Obviously we have to continue to working because of even to knowing it not all the politicians give the same priority we have to sow them the importance of this.

    I do not totally agree with the affirmation of Mr kriske because of here in Spain there are a rapid increasing in news concepts of mobility thanks to the new technologies and the mobile apps such as car-sharing, car-pooling, rides-haring, and bike-rent, electric bike rent, (http://www.bicimad.com/ https://www.bicing.cat/es/ ) At the same time big and smalls cities even towns are implementing a special car taxes trying to dissuade the use of car so there are people here in Spain who they start to thinking to do not have a car or reduce from two family cars to only one because is to expensive maintain row cars, the only thing is that the city, namely, the politicians implement new forms of public transport to be more attractive and then, but only then when you can find a good offer of different publics transports,  try to penalize the private transport.

  • Dear friends and dear Fernando and Rodica,

    First, let me say congratulations! It is a wonderful topic for discussion.

    I totally agree with you.In the case of Latin American cities, and especially in Ecuador (my country), the definition of "smart cities" has had diverse interpretations from the main actors related (directly or indirectly) with the urban development. For example, for the private housing sector who has been designing and constructing gated communities, "smart city" is a new "marketing name" or brand to sell the idea of sustainable communities living safety and healthy close to the nature and with high standards of living quality. In the reality, if we try to measure these gated communities with indicators of urban sustainability, they are not really so "smart" or "sustainable" as they believe.

    Connectivity and sustainable transportation is a main component of smart cities. In the case of gated communities, which are localized at the peripheries of cities or/and in rural areas, the extreme use of the private car (car dependency) as main transportation system contributes to the increase of CO2 emissions and to the decrease of healthy communities.

    So, here we have an example of bad use of the "smart city" concept in order to promote a contradictory healthy and sustainable way of life. I am sure that we have the same problems in other cities from the developing and developed world. The question could be: "How could sustainable transportation and connectivity contribute to improve or create real "smart cities"?

    On the other hand, we have the other extreme opposite side of the definition. In the academic world, the "smart city" concept is not new. Nevertheless, during the last decade there has been a revival of the concept in order to foster the importance of sustainable urban development. The most radical critique to the concept of smart city focus on the difficulty to traduce its theoretical framework to the reality of urban design and planning of cities (especially in the developing world). For example, just one question: could we transform Lagos or Mumbay (more than 10 million inhabitants + extreme poverty) to smart cities? It is really possible or there are other priorities to solve in these specific cases? Please, let me know your opinions friends!

    By the way, I am sorry for wrting again after long time. I was 6 weeks in Ecuador and I got married. So, as you can imagine I did not have access to interenet for several weeks.

    Kind regards and have a nice day,


  •  |   1

    Dear Ricardo,

    Thank you for sharing not only this useful post/opinion with us but also, and most importantly, the wonderful news of your marriage!! Congratulations and all best wishes for a happy marriage!

    It's extremely rewarding for me to see what an interesting turn our eDiscussion has taken! Even if many of you touched upon different aspects of this complex notion - "smart cities" - and from different perspectives, one can see that some major red lines are recurring: the fact that smart cities are also (and sometimes mainly) about smart citizens, the fact that technology it's only the support and not the solution or the way toward a smart city, or the importance of integrating the vision and elements of "smart city" in the sustainable urban planning for our present and future cities.

    I also think that it's extremely valuable and useful for our discussion - and most of you did exactly this - to provide practical examples of how things are moving in the countries and cities you are familiar with.

    I came across a very smart (since we are talking about smart this and that...;-)) description of this trend concerning smart cities; the director of a Chinese vendor giant said that "smart cities" is a journey that goes from connected cities, to smart cities, to intelligent cities, which ultimately will be more sustainable. It's ultimately about how to use data and then moving forward towards understanding and analyzing data and finally to using it to change the future. Starting from this argument, one might say that different cities are in different stages of the same process/or journey.

    Going back to Ricardo's question, where do you think your cities/or cities you've seen or worked in, are in this journey?

    Thanks again to you all for a very interesting conversation thus far,


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