Introduction to Special Issue by Alina Wernick, and Anna Artyushina: “While the GDPR and other EU laws seek to mitigate a range of potential harms associated with smart cities, the compliance with and enforceability of these regulations remain an issue. In addition, these proposed regulations do not sufficiently address the collective harms associated with the deployment of biometric technologies and artificial intelligence. Another relevant question is whether the initiatives put forward to secure fundamental human rights in the digital realm account for the issues brought on by the deployment of technologies in city spaces. In this special issue, we employ the smart city notion as a point of connection for interdisciplinary research on the human rights implications of the algorithmic, biometric and smart city technologies and the policy responses to them. The articles included in the special issue analyse the latest European regulations as well as soft law, and the policy frameworks that are currently at work in the regions where the GDPR does not apply…(More)”.
Slow-governance in smart cities: An empirical study of smart intersection implementation in four US college towns
Paper by Madelyn Rose Sanfilippo and Brett Frischmann: “Cities cannot adopt supposedly smart technological systems and protect human rights without developing appropriate data governance, because technologies are not value-neutral. This paper proposes a deliberative, slow-governance approach to smart tech in cities. Inspired by the Governing Knowledge Commons (GKC) framework and past case studies, we empirically analyse the adoption of smart intersection technologies in four US college towns to evaluate and extend knowledge commons governance approaches to address human rights concerns. Our proposal consists of a set of questions that should guide community decision-making, extending the GKC framework via an incorporation of human-rights impact assessments and a consideration of capabilities approaches to human rights. We argue that such a deliberative, slow-governance approach enables adaptation to local norms and more appropriate community governance of smart tech in cities. By asking and answering key questions throughout smart city planning, procurement, implementation and management processes, cities can respect human rights, interests and expectations…(More)”.
Digital (In)justice in the Smart City
Book edited by Debra Mackinnon, Ryan Burns and Victoria Fast: “In the contemporary moment, smart cities have become the dominant paradigm for urban planning and administration, which involves weaving the urban fabric with digital technologies. Recently, however, the promises of smart cities have been gradually supplanted by recognition of their inherent inequalities, and scholars are increasingly working to envision alternative smart cities.
Informed by these pressing challenges, Digital (In)Justice in the Smart City foregrounds discussions of how we should think of and work towards urban digital justice in the smart city. It provides a deep exploration of the sources of injustice that percolate throughout a range of sociotechnical assemblages, and it questions whether working towards more just, sustainable, liveable, and egalitarian cities requires that we look beyond the limitations of “smartness” altogether. The book grapples with how geographies impact smart city visions and roll-outs, on the one hand, and how (unjust) geographies are produced in smart pursuits, on the other. Ultimately, Digital (In)Justice in the Smart City envisions alternative cities – smart or merely digital – and outlines the sorts of roles that the commons, utopia, and the law might take on in our conceptions and realizations of better cities…(More)”.
Governing Smart Cities as Knowledge Commons
Book edited by Brett M. Frischmann, Michael J. Madison, and Madelyn Rose Sanfilippo: “The rise of ‘smart’ – or technologically advanced – cities has been well documented, while governance of such technology has remained unresolved. Integrating surveillance, AI, automation, and smart tech within basic infrastructure as well as public and private services and spaces raises a complex set of ethical, economic, political, social, and technological questions. The Governing Knowledge Commons (GKC) framework provides a descriptive lens through which to structure case studies examining smart tech deployment and commons governance in different cities. This volume deepens our understanding of community governance institutions, the social dilemmas communities face, and the dynamic relationships between data, technology, and human lives. For students, professors, and practitioners of law and policy dealing with a wide variety of planning, design, and regulatory issues relating to cities, these case studies illustrate options to develop best practice. Available through Open Access, the volume provides detailed guidance for communities deploying smart tech…(More)”
Smart City Technologies: A Political Economy Introduction to Their Governance Challenges
Paper by Beatriz Botero Arcila: “Smart cities and smart city technologies are terms used to refer to computational models of urbanism and to data-driven and algorithmically intermediated technologies. Smart city technologies intend to plan for and deliver new efficiencies, insights, and conveniences on city services. At the same time, in instances when these tools are involved in decision-making processes that don’t have right or wrong mathematical answers, they present important challenges related to cementing inequality, discrimination, and surveillance. This chapter is an introduction to the governance challenges smart city technologies pose. It includes an overview of the literature, focusing on the risks they pose and it includes a case study of surveillance technologies as an example of the adoption and diffusion patterns of smart city technologies. This is a political economy approach to smart city technologies, which emphasizes the adoption, development, and diffusion patterns of these technologies as a function of institutional, market and ideological dynamics. Such an approach should allow scholars and policymakers to find points of intervention at the level of the institutions and infrastructures that sustain the current shape of these technologies to address and prevent some of risks and harms they create. This should help interested parties add some nuance to binary analyses and identify different actors, institutions, and infrastructures that can be instances of intervention to shape their effects and create change. It should also help those working on developing these tools to imagine how institutions and infrastructures must be shaped to realize their benefits…(More)”.
Smart city planning must work for both private business and public citizens
Article by Neil Britto; Suparno Banerjee and Constanza Movsichoff: “The challenges associated with the design, development and maintenance of digital urban infrastructure are substantial and have to balance the needs and incentives of both public and private stakeholders. While proofs of concepts and test-beds have been tried and are often successful, scaling these to city scale has been challenging for a number of reasons:
- Scope. There is too often a focus on solutions that address narrow aspects of the city’s needs.
- Capital requirements. Many cities do not have adequate capital for deploying solutions at scale and might struggle to attract investment from the private sector.
- Procurement. Procurement models favor vendor-buyer relationships as opposed to multi-year, multi-enterprise, complex partnerships.
- Time scales. Some of the most pressing challenges that cities face will need multiple years to address. These complex journeys need partnerships that can withstand the pressures of time, budgets and expectations.
- Data. A nuanced understanding of public concern over data sourcing and use can be critical for a successful public-private collaboration. These dynamics contribute to the unique challenges and opportunities for smart city public-private collaborations that range from intelligent street lighting to broadband access.
In recognition of these challenges, the World Economic Forum’s G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance assembled a taskforce to look for best practices and model policies in the area of public-private collaborations in 2021. That taskforce, comprised of experts and officers from cities, companies and institutions deeply involved in smart city projects, compiled case studies, insights and feedback from across the sector. As members of that taskforce, we are happy to provide a distillation of these resources in the form of our new Primer for Smart City Public Private Collaborations…(More)”.
Global Review of Smart City Governance Practices
Report by UN Habitat: “Through smart city initiatives, digital technologies are increasingly applied in cities to modernize city operations and transform service delivery. The ongoing digital transformation provides new opportunities but also creates challenges, and it is increasingly apparent that delivering effective urban digital services is a complex task. Nowadays, smart city projects are typically driven by technology and little attention is given to governance dynamics. In addition, the novelty and complexity of many smart city initiatives make it difficult for public sector organizations to fully grasp how to effectively manage digital transformation processes.
As many cities and public sector organizations across the world have been experimenting with smart city initiatives, their actions have generated a data-rich environment from which to learn. As such, this report features findings from a systematic literature review and a global online survey completed by approximately 300 respondents, who have reported on the smart city governance practices of more than 250 municipalities in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.
With the objective to support both urban managers and practitioners, the report highlights several dimensions for effective smart city governance and ways to foster a people-centered approach to smart cities. It serves as a knowledge resource to present best practices, gaps in smart city governance mechanisms, and the various elements to consider when governing the planning and implementation of smart city initiatives.
The report is part of UN-Habitat’s strategy to promote a people-centered approach to digital transformation supporting local governments in establishing the right capacities, regulatory frameworks, collaborations and arrangements for using technology to advance human developments and show commitment to human rights, both in online and offline environments…(More)”.
Smart cities: reviewing the debate about their ethical implications
Paper from Marta Ziosi, Benjamin Hewitt, Prathm Juneja, Mariarosaria Taddeo & Luciano Floridi: “This paper considers a host of definitions and labels attached to the concept of smart cities to identify four dimensions that ground a review of ethical concerns emerging from the current debate. These are: (1) network infrastructure, with the corresponding concerns of control, surveillance, and data privacy and ownership; (2) post-political governance, embodied in the tensions between public and private decision-making and cities as post-political entities; (3) social inclusion, expressed in the aspects of citizen participation and inclusion, and inequality and discrimination; and (4) sustainability, with a specific focus on the environment as an element to protect but also as a strategic element for the future. Given the persisting disagreements around the definition of a smart city, the article identifies in these four dimensions a more stable reference framework within which ethical concerns can be clustered and discussed. Identifying these dimensions makes possible a review of the ethical implications of smart cities that is transversal to their different types and resilient towards the unsettled debate over their definition…(More)”.
Breakthroughs in Smart City Implementation
Book edited by Leo P. Ligthart and Ramjee Prasad: “Breakthroughs in Smart City Implementation should give answers on a wide variety of present social, political and technological problems. Green and long-lasting solutions are needed in coming 10 years and beyond on areas as green and long lasting solutions for improving air quality, quality of life of residents in cities, traffic congestions and many more.Two Conasense branches, established in China and in India, report in six book chapters on initiatives needed to overcome the obvious shortcomings at present. Three more chapters complete this fifth Conasense book: an introductory chapter concerning Smart City from Conasense perspective, a chapter showing that not technology but the people in the cities are most important and a chapter on recent results and prospects of “Human in the Loop” in smart vehicular systems…(More)”.
Smart Streetlights are Casting a Long Shadow Over Our Cities
Article by Zhile Xie: “This is not a surveillance system—nobody is watching it 24 hours a day,” said Erik Caldwell, director of economic development in San Diego, in an interview where he was asked if the wide deployment of “smart” streetlights had turned San Diego into a surveillance city. Innocuous at first glance, this statement demonstrates the pernicious impact of artificial intelligence on new “smart” streetlight systems. As Caldwell suggests, a central human vision is important for the streetlight to function as a surveillance instrument. However, the lack of human supervision only suggests its enhanced capacity. Smart sensors are able to process and communicate environmental information that does not present itself in a visual format and does not rely on human interpretation. On the one hand, they reinforce streetlights’ function as a surveillance instrument, historically associated with light and visibility. On the other hand, in tandem with a wide range of sensors embedded in our everyday environment, they also enable for-profit data extraction on a vast scale, under the auspices of a partnership between local governments and tech corporations.
The streetlight was originally designed as a surveillance device and has been refined to that end ever since then. Its association with surveillance and security can be found as early as 400 BC. Citizens of Ancient Rome started to install an oil lamp in front of every villa to prevent tripping or thefts, and an enslaved person would be designated to watch the lamp—lighting was already paired with the notion of control through slavery. As Wolfgang Schivelbusch has detailed in his book Disenchanted Light, street lighting also emerged in medieval European cities alongside practices of policing. Only designated watchmen who carried a torch and a weapon were allowed to be out on the street. This ancient connection between security and visibility has been the basis of the wide deployment of streetlights in modern cities. Moreover, as Edwin Heathcote has explained in a recent article for the Architectural Review, gas streetlights were first introduced to Paris during Baron Haussmann’s restructuring of the city between 1853 and 1870, which was designed in part to prevent revolutionary uprisings. The invention of electric light bulbs in the late nineteenth century in Europe triggered new fears and imaginations around the use of streetlights for social control. For instance, in his 1894 dystopian novel The Land of the Changing Sun, W.N. Harben envisions an electric-optical device that makes possible 24-hour surveillance over the entire population of an isolated country, Alpha. The telescopic system is aided by an artificial “sun” that lights up the atmosphere all year round, along with networked observatories across the land that capture images of their surroundings, which are transmitted to a “throne room” for inspection by the king and police…(More)”.