Global citizens frustrated with current status of smart city projects


Capgemini has released a new report Street Smart: Putting the citizen at the center of Smart City initiatives which explores responses from 10,000 citizens and over 300 city officials across 10 countries and 58 cities.

Today’s city living is falling short of citizens’ increased expectations in the digital age, according to the study.

Many citizens are frustrated with the current set up of the city in which they live and are prepared to vote with their feet by leaving for a more digitally advanced city.

On an average, 40% of global citizens may leave their city in the future because of various ‘digital frustrations’.  

More than half of citizens (58%) perceive smart cities as sustainable and that they provide a better quality of urban services (57%).   

In addition, more than a third of citizens surveyed (36%) are willing to pay more for enriched urban existence. However, serious challenges to implementation exist, particularly in terms of data and funding.

Two thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in a city by 2050, with the number of megacities set to rise from 33 in 2030 to 43 by 2050.

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Within the context of population growth, Capgemini has found that only one in ten city officials say they are in the advanced stages of implementing a smart city vision, and less than a quarter (only 22%) have begun implementing smart city initiatives.

However, there is a considerable global desire for smart cities among citizens, meaning an accelerated approach would be well received.

The key to unlocking an improved urban life

Sustainability is of increased importance for urbanites. Citizens find challenges such as pollution (42%) and of lack of sustainability initiatives (36%) a major concern and may leave their city as a result.

However, over the past three years, 42% of city officials say that sustainability initiatives have lagged, and 41% say their cities becoming unsustainable over the next 5-10 years is one of the top five consequences of not adopting digital technology.

While smart city initiatives can lead to improvements across urban services, Capgemini has found that perception is key, and that the benefits aren’t just limited to tangible outcomes. Citizens using smart city initiatives are happier with the quality of their city life.

Up to 73% of citizens who have used smart city initiatives say they are happier with their quality of life in terms of health factors, such as air quality. However, this drops sharply to 56% among those who have not used a smart city initiative. More than a third of citizens (36%) are willing to pay to live in a smart city. This figure rises for younger and richer citizens: 44% among millennials, 41% among Gen Z respondents and 43% among those earning more than $80,000.

Other key study findings include:
Smart city initiatives help to manage the COVID-19 crisis.
Accelerating implementation requires close collaboration between key stakeholders.
Data and funding are critical implementation challenges

Matthias Wieckmann, the head of digital strategy, city of Hamburg, said: ”When considering a smart city initiative, it is best to start with very small experimentations that can be tested before expanding and securing visibility and viability for funding. For city officials early in their journey, smaller solutions will help pave the way faster rather than starting with a big overall solution. It is also easier to find support and finance for projects this way.”

Pierre-Adrien Hanania, Capgemini’s global offerlLeader for AI in the public sector, says: “Smart city perception and status have become an important differentiator for citizens. It has become crucial for city planners and officials to realize that the citizens are the smartest asset a city has and to put them at the center of smart city initiatives. City officials must work to ensure that technology-led interventions give people the experience and quality of life that they want and need.

“By doing so, cities will avoid their inhabitants leaving for another city and will enhance their digitization pathway, benefiting of the willingness of citizen to invest in their home. Furthermore, smart initiatives allow cities to be more resilient to challenges like COVID-19 but to achieve that, it is key to federate both the data environment and the city’s stakeholders in order to shape the blueprint of their city together – putting sustainability, data privacy and the city’s DNA at its core.”