Smart cities is an evolving concept. It has been developed progressively with private and public responsibility, transforming our urban areas so they become more attractive and liveable. Albeit isn’t a uniform definition, it’s commonly accepted that, at least, it lies on mobility, infrastructure, economic growth, health, environment, and governance. Citizens, both residents and visitors, businesses and governments are increasingly demanding places where infrastructure, services and technological reliability are high and adaptable. To deliver so, it is important not only to innovate but also to collect, treat and analyse good data.
During the Covid-19 pandemic priorities have changed. Having good health systems, technological infrastructures, and safe environments has become key. Lockdowns have pushed many to spend most of their time at home, restricting their mobility to very reduced geographic limits. As a way to escape the walls within which they have been confined, many started to put action on their long-postponed plan, explore those geographic limits. Tourism became more and more local, but not many businesses profited from this shift. The gain was on People’s welfare, which was enlarged by the decision of some to temporarily move to environments with better air quality and less density, being consequently less polluted and less contagious.This led to cost-savings for the Healthcare systems, overburdened by the Pandemic exponential demand for its services.
Awareness on environmental issues has raised during Pandemic, too. Studies done in 33 countries including top polluting countries such as China, USA, and India, show so. Probably triggered by the understanding of Covid-19 infection risk or by the benefits received while enjoying green spaces during lockdown time. The fact is that society is experimenting the benefits of preserving the Planet and cohabiting with a balance. More people, businesses and governments are willing to and have been shifting to e-mobility and procure sustainably, from the energy consumed at their premises to the growing paperless transactions; behaviours are changing to a larger extent.
Cities have gone through temporary exodus in 2021. This may lead to different scores from previous years on the several Smart Cities indexes, although their focus and methodologies are different, the reason for cities being ranked differently.
The welfare gains have been uncountable, for the time being. The third sequence of lockdowns attempting to contain the Covid-19 virus and its mutations’ spread could be the time for a Game Changer on Smart Cities. Perhaps a good criterion to be added to the multiple criteria that form the many Smart City indexes, is the cost-savings or the welfare gain the free, open air activities generate for Citizens, Businesses and Governments and that are increasingly appreciated by each one of these actors. Starting only with one of them may be simpler and can then pave the way to the long-waited change on the GDP factors, originating a sustainable GDP, GDP+. But this change cannot occur before having discussed and agreed a homogeneousness of the methodology to allow countries a fair comparison and ranking.
Isn’t this a good time for transparency on the estimated welfare?