Brain power

Smart cities are global cities

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

There remains a sense that smart cities is a term more beloved of technology vendors than citizens, with various reports showing that citizens have not really reaped the promised benefits yet. That’s not to say such lacklustre performance is pervasive, with a new report1 from the University of Glasgow exploring the smart city landscape to see what set the most advanced cities apart from the rest.

The researchers examined over 5,500 cities around the world before settling on 27 who were leading the way. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these vanguard cities were capital cities of their respective countries, and as such could be regarded as global cities. The authors believe this global outreach and engagement was vital to the success of their smart city work.

The paper suggests that those cities that are leading the way are not just about technology and data but about a joined up approach to improving city life for inhabitants.

“A Smart City uses new technologies and data as a way of addressing the city’s economic, social and environmental challenges. Our multi-centre study found a strong presence of world leading or capital cities, revealing a close connection between cities’ ambition to become ‘smart’ and their global presence and positioning. However, this creates a tension insofar as smart cities concurrently have to define themselves in relation to their local settings,” the authors say.

“Another key insight from our research is that there is an ongoing tension between the smart city mainly defined in technological terms and a more socially-oriented approach. The latter recognises the importance of social purpose and emphasises the key role of governance, such as coordination and partnership.”

Things such as sustainable development and public engagement were found to be a key part of this social purpose and help to deliver the kind of socio-political transformations that are possible. The authors believe that if towns are considering venturing down the path towards becoming smart, then this public engagement cannot happen soon enough to help drive future research, policy and practice.

Article source: Smart Cities Are Global Cities.

Header image source: Adapted from City by reynermedia on Flickr, CC BY 2.0.


  1. Joss, S., Sengers, F., Schraven, D., Caprotti, F., & Dayot, Y. (2019). The smart city as global discourse: Storylines and critical junctures across 27 cities. Journal of Urban Technology, 26(1), 3-34.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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