Smart Cities

Let's talk about Smart Cities! As always, the title of each excerpt is a link to the article it came from.

What is a Smart City?
“Smart city” is one concept that has been, to some extent, oversold and under-understood. It is not about sensors and gadgets and software and more routers and more IBM equipment. A smart city [endeavor] is more about building a happy city. We are not saying that existing cities are dumb, but we need to use technology to create an environment where people are better off in terms of pollution, traffic, education, health, jobs, living conditions and cultural spaces. All of these are very important aspects of building a happy city, including security. But the idea is not to bring more cameras and more police and more guns. The idea is to build better communities.

For example, we have built cities where people drive a half an hour to work. That’s not smart. Why can’t we design cities where people walk to work? But because of the car industry, and because of the Western model, everybody said, “Oh, that’s okay, we can drive 30 minutes to work.” And there are traffic jams everywhere. People who live in the north work in the south. People who live in the south work in the north. It doesn’t make sense.

Then we come to organizational issues. How are we organized in the city? What resources do we have in the city? We can do so much without any technology input today. Of course, technology will help a great deal. But let’s go see what we can do with what we’ve got and not jump into technology. By bringing technology to the existing systems, you’re going to create chaos, because the systems are not designed to adapt to new technology. We waste resources on technology if we are not equipped to handle the external input that technology brings.

When people talk about a hundred smart cities in India, they have no clue as to what they are saying. They’re naive. If you cannot empower the mayor of the city, how do you build it? [What about] organizational autonomy, freedom and flexibility? If you don’t allow your cities to raise money of their own for projects, how do you get cities to fund them? You have not really created autonomy for your cities. If you don’t do that, there’s no way you can bring technology to solve your problems.

Strengthening Governance

How do we create a society that works for everybody? One major effective way is through good governance. In this talk, the speaker points to a couple of important factors that need to be present to achieve good governance: Strong checks and balances, enforceable international standards, and informed citizens who can ask for useful change.

“Patient" Capitalism, or Funding the Businesses of the Poor

This video talks about the nature of getting healthy businesses started in a capital-poor economy, and how it needs to work to be successful.

Relationship between courage, learning, vulnerability and shame