Smart cities, smarter citizens

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Improving the quality of life is the main objective of smart cities, it is people – not technology – that are at the center of the debate

When we hear about smart cities, it is hard not to think about futuristic solutions or even sci-fi scenarios where digital innovations occupy most of our daily lives. Indeed, bringing intelligence to our urban centers requires  a good use of technology, as it offers indispensable tools to make governments and services more efficient, agile and productive.

Despite that, whoever thinks that a smart city only comes down to cutting-edge inventions or the latest gadgets, is quite mistaken. Actually, devices aren’t the ones responsible to form a city, but people are! To guarantee better public services and higher quality of life, technology is, in fact, at service to the real protagonist of smart cities: the citizen. 

In smart cities, population is always present when it is necessary to make a decision, as it is understood that the dialogue is the fastest and most effective way of identifying and meeting urban challenges. As residents become more involved in public life, the government is able to better adapt to the community’s requests. For this reason, besides always having transparent managements that disclose how and where public resources are being used, smart cities encourage the participation of their citizens by betting on connectivity and increasing access to the digital universe.

Madrid, Spain, is one of the successful examples: the Spanish capital developed the online portal Decide Madrid, which gives residents the power to decide how to shape the city in which they live. The platform for suggestions and criticism started to develop, based on the ideas of the population itself, some projects such as green lighting, photovoltaic panels in public buildings and even ecological asphalt projects based on the use of recycled plastic.

In times of crisis as in the pandemic, the practicality of digital channels proved to be even more necessary. In Brazil, the Municipality of Aracaju developed MonitorAju, a telephone and online service in which Aracajuans could solve their questions about COVID-19 and fill out a form with symptoms to be remotely answered. Doctors, nurses and psychologists are part of the team and are responsible for informing, accompanying and redirecting patients to the appropriate service stations.

The success of these initiatives depends, however, on making them accessible to everyone. In other words, it is up to cities to invest, not only in internet access, but also in the areas of education and technology. In smart cities, both are extremely important for public management, as they walk together.  This is because, as more complete is the formation given to population, the greater are the chances of having skilled and qualified professionals to develop new researches and present innovations.

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