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Smart cities, smarter management

Smart cities, smarter management

Following the policy of representing good practices and the knowledge-based approaches in regards to the smart city concept here, we present a resume of a doctoral study of Tara Alshahadeh, who holds an MBA from Aydin University. Useful ideas and a systematic approach for the smart cities' project management can be found. 

What is a smart city project?

A project is considered smarter when it’s associated with a higher number of smart city main dimensions which are economy, people, governance, environment, mobility, and living.

Each dimension represents a particular aspect of the city where a smart project aims to achieve smart city goals in efficiency, sustainability, and high quality of life.[1] Another definition for smart city projects is those projects which use modern technology to generate economic, social, and ecological value, run by multiple organizations as a partnership and include innovation or experimentation. Also, the smart city projects can be defined as the ones that are driven by institutions that develop the project objectives according to the challenges and key performance indicators (KPIs) of the smart city vision with the involvement of citizens. 

Two approaches are identified in this wor: the top-down approach (the project is initiated by government or institutions) or the bottom-up approach (the project is initiated by citizens).[2]. ASCIMER (assessing smart city initiatives for the Mediterranean region) has recognized three characteristics for smart city projects that impact and contribute to the smart city.

  • First, innovation where technology should be promoted in smart city projects to solve the old urban issues in a new innovative way.
  • Second, integration where smart city projects should help creating interconnected systems and managing knowledge and information efficiently among them, increase communication between institutions and citizens, and increase cooperation between public and private institutions and civil entities.
  • Third, inclusion where some smart city projects engage people in their projects, if not, smart city projects should communicate the benefits of the project to citizens.

What is the Smart City Projects Challenges?

Smart city project challenges include the classical project challenges and other specific challenges emerging from the complexity and innovative nature of smart city projects. These challenges inspire partners, managers, and city leaders to come up with innovative solutions. The challenges that might come across managers include:

  • Technological challenges - Smart city projects depend extremely on technology. However, implementing digital infrastructure is challenging because of the lack of knowledge about ICT systems and compatible software, the security and privacy problems where systems may get hacked or infected by viruses, etc., the high cost of installing, operating, and maintaining IT systems and the cost of training and hiring IT specialists.
  • Financial constraints - Smart city projects require significant financial resources to adapt technology to the city's existed infrastructure which is more expensive than building a new smart city. The main challenges are finding who can fund the project, choosing the right investment that will create long-term efficiencies, benefits, and return, the tendency to avoid huge investments that generate long-term benefits and focusing on short-term, and the need for innovative business, operating and financial models in order to transition from pilot projects into full-scale projects.
  • Lack of collaboration among different stakeholders and governmental restraints - Smart city projects require collaboration among private organizations, public institutions, NGOs, citizens, etc. which increases the complexity of these projects. The main challenges are poor communication and coordination among these participants, the leadership style, lack of policies for open data that enables sharing across departments and organizations, lack of support from both local government and city administration, the time is taken by organizations involved in the project to make decisions and breaking down silos that hinder the success of the project.
  • Managerial and organizational challenges - One of the challenges of smart city projects is their size and scope where two types of projects can be defined; Greenfield projects which are huge, long-term, and usually starts from zero, and Brownfield projects which are smaller sized projects, short-term and fast implemented are usually built on existed infrastructure and are preferred by investors for generating fast revenues. Another challenge is leadership style and the manager’s technical and social skills. Similarly, the lack of understanding solutions leads to poor decisions. Also, the absence of educated and qualified teams who can work in these complex and high-tech projects, resistance to change, and inadequate training are also one of the smart city projects challenges. Moreover, the diversity of the project’s relevant stakeholders creates conflicts about who will govern and finance or who will capture the created value. Finally, having multiple goals that do not align with the project vision can be challenging, also, miscommunication of the project’s objectives to the local community.
  • Social challenges - Smart city projects need to engage citizens and create a common understanding of the key objectives, opportunities, and challenges among all smart city project participants. The main challenges lie in how to motivate and involve citizens in smart city projects, measure and express the value created by the smart city project for citizens, the digital divide in the city, and change the behavior and thinking of citizens to what’s called “smart thinking”.

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