Study says smart cities must 'go beyond' technology adoption

Smart cities of the future will need more than 5G to remain resilient in the face of fast-changing social and economic situations, according to new research by Cognizant. 

This comes, the report notes, as efforts to become ‘smart’ through AI solutions and other forms of technology have been met with varying degrees of success. 

In a study which surveyed 200 city officials from around the world, it was found that becoming a future-ready city "goes beyond" technology adoption - it will require strong ecosystems of local governments, infrastructure providers and technology partners 

The study found, however, that well-functioning ecosystems are "few and far between", with only 46% of city officials reporting to be making good or very good progress in developing an ecosystem. Half cited a shortage of the required skills and expertise as an obstacle to this and a further 65% said the problem was finding the right technology suppliers.

The challenge is to not just form these ecosystems but to also design them to foster mutually beneficial relationships. The report points out that these relationships do not always emerge naturally, so recommends building this into the ecosystem’s dynamics from the very start.

Also lacking are the capabilities to not just create high-quality data but also to manage, share, protect and make that data actionable; with only 35% of survey respondents stating that they are proficient at doing this. 

Findings highlight how respondents are generally frustrated with their progress in using data to achieve their goals across a variety of activities, from sustainability to public safety and security. 

The study also found concerns about cybersecurity and the potential for citizen surveillance is widespread, signalling a need for ecosystem partners to acknowledge and respond to this. 

While nearly three-quarters of survey respondents (74%) plan to increase their focus on data security in the next few years, just one third (30%) said privacy concerns are slowing their efforts to collect and use citizen data.

Speaking on the findings, Eduardo Plastino, Director at Cognizant Research commented: “Local governments and their partners in the private sector have an excellent opportunity to boost the future-readiness of cities as 5G becomes increasingly available at a time when they have had the chance to learn from both the successes of and disappointments from previous ‘smart city’ projects. Creating strong ecosystems of local governments, infrastructure providers and integrators will help us succeed in making the most of this opportunity and overcome challenges by being able to pool financial resources, talent, and knowledge.

“An important aspect will be for cities and their partners to design urban “sandboxes”—safe spaces for experimental efforts that could safely fail to deliver the expected outcomes without substantial negative impacts but could also lead to outstanding, sometimes unpredictable results. This requires a mindset shift, but it could pay off handsomely.”

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