Posting in Cities
Who are we building smart cities for, anyway? We would do right to remember.
I've been working my way through some of IBM's white paper materials about Smart Cities and came across a demographic statistic from their research that made me pause: That is, in many top cities around the globe, the education level of the workforce in selected cities is generally far less than the average for the parent country.
The numbers were crunched up by the IBM Institute for Business Value and is based on various census data from around the world. I've summarized the data in the chart below:
The reason I'm thinking about this statistic is because much of the focus in the various Smart Cities projects that are going on in the United States and elsewhere are in the largest metropolitan areas, which have become huge population centers and are expected to continue to become even larger.
By extension, that means these projects need to consider these demographic dynamics perhaps a bit more carefully than they have in the past. What good, for example, would a close focus on telecommuting programs be, for example, if most of the people that live in a given city work in their local neighborhood. What expectations can city leaders have about their residents access to technology, if it hasn't been part of their public education experience? What does this say about the preferred mode of Internet access: mobile phones vs. Internet connections vs. wireless television feeds.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course, when it comes to designing municipal sustainability programs, but city leaders need to get even closer to their constituents to figure out what they REALLY need.
Seeing this data also reminded me that the Environmental Protection Agency is definitely on this challenge, through a series of public housing grants and urban development funds that are aimed across a broad swath of urban development projects grounded in "smart growth" principles. One simple example is the fact that the agency just passed new HUD guidelines intended to help clean up land for multifamily housing projects. There are 36 "green" public housing transformation projects being targeted around the country, including this one that just got funded in Denver.
Don't get me wrong: I am a huge advocate of the smart cities projects going on around the world and with the idea of getting things going without waiting for oodles of research. But let's be real: smart cities development will be caught up in as much (actually probably more) of the same politics that govern existing public works projects and grants -- and that have governed them for hundreds of years. We would do well to remember that, in order to spend that money in as smart a way possible.
Dec 28, 2009
For over 40 years HUD and it's preceeding agencies prevented my hometown from rebuilding smartly. The mills shut down in the 1960's and the feds prevented us from reusing them for anything but cloth making. In the 1970's the feds walked away from a failed urban revival that left the city with 10,000 displaced residents and over 200 acres of land that looked like a bomb went off in what used to be the Little Italy district. The 1980's housing bust/savings a loan failure and a decade of massive arson in the 1990's left the city with over 1000 abandoned and burned out buildings, a beaten down population and HUD blocking every effort to rebuild smarter. I am not kidding when I say it took an act of Congress to get HUD to stand aside and allow the city to rebuild in a smart manner. 10 years since that fight the city is a whole new world.
Cities have historically been the gathering places of the poor and displaced. We need to make cities "smart" enough to allow such people to live a decent life and contribute to the well-being of their communities and country. Effective and cost-effective mass transit, entertainment/ recreation venues, medical care, education, housing and food are examples of such.
Thanks for pointing out the reversed chart info. PowerPoint is playing tricks on me. Took me five minutes to fix! Gee!
There is a huge difference between creating smart infrastructure, such as; intelligent utilities, mass transit and recycling programs and having a educated populous that makes conscious, informed decisions about living lighter on the planet, in a more collective and community-oriented fashion. There are many people, myself included, who view the inefficiency, waste, environmental damage and negative effects that large cities have on people's relationship with both the planet's ecology and others, as ample evidence of their failure as a form of habitation. I believer in New-urbanism and the idea that many people people can live, work and play in more densely populated urban areas. However, I believe these should be "small towns," cities and villages. At this scale, it becomes difficult for criminals, terrorists, industrial polluters and other unhealthy elements to set up shop unnoticed and become a costly and hard to irradiate cancer in the community. The first and most important step towards "Smart Cities," is educating ourselves and our children that we don't need every toy, should grow some of our own food and buy the majority of the rest locally. We should conserve resources as a matter of pride and principle. When everyone shares a deep and abiding love of their community and the burden/joy of making it a great place to live, work & play, we'll finally be ready for the "smart" infrastructure companies like IBM are talking about. John Westra Master Citizen Planner Certified Charrette Planner
what almost all the planning that has been done on cities, regular and smart, has been to ignore that people, real people, are going to live there.the planners always have used idealized people of which there are few. when the city is then built and populated there are all sorts of things wrong. most future planning has always been to neglect the humans that will be around in the future. the planners never seem to take a look at what is around them and understand that these are the people to plan for. a prime example is this insistence that a free market will solve its own problems, though we understand all too well that a free market creates its own problems that no one solves or wants to solve till the system collapses. planning for humans without including the evil that humans can breed haa always lead to utopia failures.
Guys, That is, in many top cities around the globe, the education level of the workforce in selected cities is generally far less than the average for the parent country. I may be reading the graphic wrong, or the above sentence you wrote above, but it appears that every city you mention has a HIGHER education level than the host country, not lower. While you are on the subject, Richard Florida has a lot to say about building great cities, some of them controversial. Any thoughts?