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What it means to be a smart city?

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Development towards smart cities (which has not been denoted by this term back then) began in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

At that time, the Los Angeles Community Analysis Bureau used computer databases, cluster analysis, and infrared aerial photography to gather data, produce reports on neighbourhood demographics and housing quality, and tackle poverty in the city.

The smart city concept has been around for about 25 years, and is constantly evolving over time according to the amount of areas and fields that have been included in it. Most interpretations of the smart city concept refer to information and communication technology usage to improve the quality of life in the city. However, in the last years the citizens’ satisfaction and cooperation in shaping the common future of the city is also being set in the forefront of the smart city concept.

As cities around the world differ from each other, their understanding of what it means to be a smart city varies from one city to another. Nevertheless, a smart and successful city is the one that identifies and effectively resolves its key development challenges and directs resources towards achieving the set goals that improve the quality of life of its citizens. Such city has a clear definition of the following:

  • Measuring & monitoring (Where are we today?)

  • Vision & objectives (Where do we want to go?)

  • Strategy & projects (How to get there?)

Where are we today?

By monitoring the key development areas, a city has an overview of its progress and recognizes its main challenges. This enables the city to plan long-term and to use its budgetary and other resources wisely. An excellent indicator of the sustainable development of smart cities in Europe is the annual European Green Capital Award, and for the year 2016, this prestigious title was awarded to the City of Ljubljana. Since 2014 cities finally have an internationally recognized framework of development indicators ISO 37120. This standard provides city leaders and citizens a set of clearly defined city performance indicators and a standard approach for measuring each one of them. Read more about the ISO 37120 here.

Where do we want to go?

Supported by quality data, the city is enabled to prepare long-term vision and development strategy. The importance of long-term planning is being recognised by increasing number of cities: London 2020, Ljubljana 2025, Paris 2050, Stockholm 2030, Singapore 2030, Vienna 2050 … These are only a few good examples of long-term visions and strategies of smart cities which have a common quality of being designed in a holistic manner. This means that these cities understand that various fields of urban management are interlinked, which has to be considered and applied into planning the future development of the city.

How to get there?

Even the best city development strategy is useless, unless divided into short-term goals and projects. The great advantage of cities is that they do not need to develop all the projects and build knowledge from scratch by themselves and learn from their own mistakes. Smart city follows other cities’ project practices worldwide, gathers knowledge and learns from mistakes of others and adapts the best city practices to its development goals.

Learning from good practice examples and knowledge transfer is among key objectives of the annual Ljubljana Forum. The event gathers interested stakeholders to cooperate, exchange experience, knowledge, and innovative ideas. Among the best city practices the Smart Mayor application will be presented which provides the mayor, city government and residents with an overview of the vision and city development strategy implementation through monitoring key performance indicators and implementation of the city projects. It also offers the possibility for citizen participation in the city management decision-making.


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