As urban populations grow increasingly diverse, many cities are turning to technology and smart city solutions to build more livable environments and improve the delivery of public services. However, smart city design and implementation challenges, coupled with the digital divide between different population segments, might unintentionally leave some communities behind. This is forcing some cities to confront the question: How can digital solutions advance, rather than impede, inclusion?
In this Q&A, we’ll introduce the concept of inclusive smart cities, what that means and key enablers. To read Deloitte’s full Inclusive Smart Cities report, click here.
Dan Berner, North Texas managing partner, Deloitte LLP (DB): We’ve seen how North Texas has had a huge influx of urban development and created positive momentum on inclusion efforts within the community. Why is prioritizing inclusion in urban development so important and what does that mean?
Kathleen O’Dell, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP (KO): By definition, inclusion in urban development means everyone should be able to use the same facilities, take part in the same activities, and enjoy the same experiences, including people who have a disability or other disadvantage.
While urbanization has helped improve living conditions for millions of people, there are often chronic economic and social disparities among city dwellers. And, it’s the widening inequalities that have brought the concept of inclusion to the forefront of urban development.
DB: What has Deloitte found are some of the biggest benefits to inclusive cities in the U.S.?
KO: Cities that effectively foster inclusion not only typically offer greater opportunities for their residents but often also reap widespread economic benefits. A study by the Urban Institute analyzed the relationship between inclusion and economic health in 274 of the largest cities and found that, with few exceptions, cities that are more inclusive have better economic health indicators than those that are not.
DB: How have smart cities started to apply an inclusive lens to digital service delivery?
KO: Recent smart city initiatives have sought to address these issues by focusing on the needs and preferences of city residents rather than the capabilities of connected infrastructure. And smart city initiatives that shift from being technology-centric to citizen-centric put engagement and inclusion at the center. There are enablers that can be used to establish a framework to provide cities more tools to engage diverse stakeholders in solution creation and share the benefits of smart cities—quality of life, economic growth, and sustainability—with all residents.
DB: What are some enablers for a citizen-centric framework?
KO: They are:
- Data and security: Increasing representation and transparency in government data
- Digital and technology: Expanding digital access and skills
- Ecosystem: Driving community cocreation
- Finance and funding: Incentivizing inclusion innovation
- Internal organization: Driving intergovernmental collaboration and tech-savvy staff
- Policy and regulation: Making inclusion a strategic imperative
Dan Berner is the North Texas managing partner of Deloitte LLP. Kathleen O’Dell is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Government and Public Services practice and is a thought leader around inclusion, smart cities/energy and the gender-energy nexus. To learn more about Deloitte’s insights on inclusive smart cities, click here.
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