What is a citizen’s responsibility in a smart city?

Smart cities have the potential to revolutionise our lives – but their ability to do so is heavily dependent on citizens actively using their initiatives and helping to further improve them. So, what is a citizen’s responsibility when it comes to smart cities? And how should they get involved?

Understanding ‘smart citizen’ responsibility

We all want to reap the benefits of revitalised urban centres, modern and convenient public services, and improved and healthier environments. But in order to do so, citizens need to be vocal about the services and facilities that will genuinely improve their community and quality of life. And that means pushing for improvements in infrastructure and services that are desperately needed in their locale – whether it’s free and improved connectivity, cleaner public transport and initiatives for take-up, or easier access to healthcare.

However, waking up to these needs is not just the responsibility of residents, but that of the local authorities, policymakers, service operators and developers too. As in other modern, forward-thinking cities such as Copenhagen, citizens should be encouraged to become ‘smart citizens’ by playing a more active role in co-designing their smart cities. That means being invited to offer feedback on current infrastructure and services and being invited to make suggestions for new facilities; being actively incentivised to use them, as well as being offered greater education on what is available.

So, how do citizens fulfil their responsibilities?

There are a number of ways citizens can play an active role in the development of smart cities. Here are some:

Sharing opinion

As already mentioned, public needs vary from one community to the next, and it is up to citizens to raise their specific requirements and lobby for the facilities that will address them. Any sort of public consultation or survey is the right time for citizens to ‘co-plan’ and give their views about where such facilities are required or how they should be delivered. For example, where there are areas underserved when it comes to internet connectivity, these might be determined to be the best sites to implement technologies such as free public Wi-Fi and/or small cell off-loading. Another example is, in an ageing society, it might make sense to provide access to medical information and services in public areas, whether it is Public Access Heart Defibrillators or free access points to emergency services.

Using the services

The lack of use of new services does not just make any investment a waste of money, it will also lead to greater costs over the long-term. If residents are reluctant to become ‘smart citizens’ and embrace the new healthy-living initiatives, technology and infrastructure that is provisioned, the new investments will be underused, ironically, at a cost to the taxpayer.

For instance, air quality is a major issue in cities, and is a significant risk to public health. Yet this will not improve if uptake of low-emission public transport is minimal and people continue to use private vehicles. On another level, investing in the technology to track public transport services and provide live updates on service times, will simply be a waste of money and still result in unhappy passengers if citizens do not utilise the services when made available. As such, operators need to incentivise individuals, whether by greater education or subsidised services. Only once usage rises and is seen to have a positive impact on residents’ lives, can further investment be justified.

Providing consent

Many services provided in smart cities rely on the sharing of data to improve their effectiveness. Therefore, citizens need to agree to become part of the vast interconnected structure of smart cities, agreeing to submit usage data and allowing their smart devices to communicate information where necessary. The sharing of such insights is crucial for the monitoring and improvement of their facilities – whether it is congestion and traffic management, air quality, energy usage or how well used municipal services are. In increasingly smart cities such as Barcelona, this municipal data is being used to not only improve services, but educate citizens. This works both ways, as local authorities in Copenhagen are making data available to influencers who can use it to develop smart projects and business partnerships for the future.

Embracing responsibility

Smart cities can only prove successful if their citizens utilise them in the way they are intended. After all, the inhabitants are the greatest component of any city. However, the onus is on those citizens to actively engage with the facilities, and local authorities and businesses to encourage it.

At Pulse Smart Hub, we can play a part in your city’s progression into the 21st century, improving connectivity, access to services and the quality of life of your citizens. To find out more about our Smart Hubs, get in touch today.