Previously, we already talked about the requirements of a smart city, and we pointed out that we are slowly evolving from smart city projects to actual smart cities. But what exactly is a ‘smart city’? The definition of a smart city is not set in stone — in fact there are quite a few definitions going around — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A city is an ecosystem that leads a life of its own and is composed of numerous living connected components in constant motion: people, in their capacities as citizens, workers, tourists, students, … A universally valid definition of ‘the smart city’ would therefore overlook the by definition highly dynamic, changing and different nature of a city.

Vancouver, Canada

Obviously, citizens and (smart) cities also have a lot in common. They do share some DNA, like universal values and human needs. But when you ask ten different people from ten different countries what a smart city means for them, you will probably get ten different answers. And that is not surprising.

One can hardly compare a smart city like Dubai, where technology and luxury are part of the city’s ambitions, and smart cities in regions with far less means and major socio-economic problems. Or smart cities in the fastest rising economies, smart cities with major pollution and traffic challenges or smart cities in countries with a population that has aged much faster than that in other countries.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

It is also hard to compare the political and socio-economical DNA of various smart cities. In some the call for citizen participation and participative democracy is far higher than in others, while in some the very concept of a participative democracy is unthinkable. Moreover, cities and societies, as well as visions on cities, are not just differing across regions, places and even demographic groups within one city, they also evolve over time.

So it is safe to say that no two (smart) cities are the same. Every city has its own needs and its own problems. Resulting in its own specific focus, which can be more on sustainability, privacy, safety, infrastructure, transportation, citizen participation or even the transformation of governance as such.

But one thing remains the same: every city — rich or poor, old or young — is in dire need of accurate data to deal with the numerous challenges it faces, day in day out. And thanks to a platform like DataBroker DAO these data are easily accessible for everybody.