Are Smart Cities at risk of excluding certain groups?

09 Dec 21

Although the full concept of smart cities is still within its infancy in most cities, we’re seeing many governments across the globe race to infuse technology into every aspect of its city’s operations.

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‘Smart cities’, a concept that intends to offer efficiency to services and citizens through “smart governance, smart building, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology and smart citizens”, is becoming more important for urban designers, planners and architects in the creation of places.

Although the full concept of smart cities is still within its infancy in most cities, we’re seeing many governments across the globe race to infuse technology into every aspect of its city’s operations.

Enhanced technology and people-centred design has been used to improve how cities are built and managed. With the collection of more data, cities can better monitor cleanliness, distribute services and resources, and better understand who we are and what we need. We have also seen technology enter the sustainability discussion as Smart Tech can better manage energy use, lighting, heating, cooling systems and reduce carbon emissions by monitoring traffic congestion.

However, it’s important to question whether this new world is being successfully designed for everyone. A recent book published by Caroline Perez titled Invisible Women argues that the digitalisation of our society is, and will continue to, exacerbate the inequalities experienced by women every day as a result of biased technology, with women less likely than men to use digital technology.

The expanding case on this topic can be linked to the longstanding argument of female exclusion in urban space, written repeatedly about by theorists and activists such as Jane Jacobs, Ulla Terlinden and Helen Jarvis.

Sustainable Smart Cities require careful planning with people at the centre. They need to be co-produced with marginalised groups. This will ensure they are inclusive and sustainable, becoming interconnected, adaptive, responsive and always relevant to all those who live, work and visit an area.

Those operating in the built environment need to be at the forefront of this change and ensure the design process integrates technology in a way that benefits both people and the environment, making Smart Cities the equitable cities of the future.

Ruby Ellis Assistant Planner,Planning