I’ve traveled the globe and heard many different and impactful responses to this question: What is the secret of a successful smart city?
If I told you that the answer lies with the well-being of citizens, would you agree?
I am sure you would immediately think that it can’t be right – after all, cities embark on smart cities initiatives to reduce costs and drive efficiencies with a view of enhancing livability. Besides, you could argue that one can’t define success simply by talking about citizen safety and welfare.
I recently attended the Wellbeing Cities Summit, in Montreal. There were more 200 people from 30 cities engaging in a global conversation and celebrating citizen contentment and success in cities. During one of the presentations, Stéphane Guidoin, Smart Cities leader of Ville de Montréal, said that they measure the success of their smart cities initiatives by how they’ve improved the well-being of their citizens.
I must admit that I was very surprised to hear that statement. At first, I thought I had misunderstood, but Stéphane explained that a city can consider itself successful only when it provides opportunities for all its citizens to have access to mobility, public health, learning and housing, while also taking care of the environment. It was evident that Mayor Plante agreed with him, as she biked to the Montreal Science center from City Hall to give an eloquent speech on how important citizen’s welfare is for Montréal.
That is a tall order for any city to deliver on, but after hearing the stories of the five laureates that won awards, it is clear that this is a movement that is taking hold. The city of Milan, Italy was selected as the Wellbeing City across all categories for their innovative civic crowdfunding project, designed to foster the implementation of innovative public interest projects with a high social impact. Through the pooling of public and private resources and the promotion and encouragement of citizens’ involvement in municipal policy, they are funding initiatives that work toward inclusivity, sustainability, and improved quality of life. The category laureates were the following:
- Community: Santa Monica, USA for the Wellbeing Index
- Economy and Opportunity: Pune, India for the Lighthouse project
- Public Health: Kigali, Rwanda for the Kigali Car Free Day
- Sustainable Environment: Lisbon, Portugal for the Sustainable Environmental Strategy
I was most impressed with the work that Santa Monica is doing with their Wellbeing Index. They are the first city in the world to measure resident contentment and welfare by tracking citizens’ health and happiness. They want to know how are the citizens of Santa Monica are doing, and have developed a simple inclusive framework across these dimensions:
- Outlook: How are the people of Santa Monica doing?
- Health: How healthy is Santa Monica?
- Community: How strong is the sense of community and civic engagement?
- Economic Opportunity: Can a diverse population live and thrive in Santa Monica?
- Place and Planet: Does the built and natural environment promote well-being?
- City Demographics: Who lives in Santa Monica?
- Learning: Do people have the opportunity to enrich knowledge and skill sets across their lifespan?
The city has seen drastic improvements since they systematically started to track these metrics, as evidenced in their 2017 report. I could hear the pride in Mayor Gleam Davis, when she accepted the award, and talked about her community. She clearly cares about the well-being of the Santa Monica community and it shined through in her speech.
At first I was skeptical, but after spending two days listening to representatives from all over the world focusing on the well-being of their citizens I realized that smart cities initiatives should be judged on how the city has improved the well-being of its citizens. I think you just might agree with me.
Franco Amalfi is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He leads the go to market strategy for smarter government for Oracle Public Sector North America. Franco advises government officials on how to leverage modern cloud-based solutions and emerging technologies to help government organizations deliver personalized government services. In addition to working with customers, Franco authors, publishes white papers and articles on leveraging technology to drive business value for governments. He is also a frequent speaker at government conferences. He is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Canada and has completed an Advanced Certificate for Executives in Management, Innovation, and Technology at MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, USA. You can read his posts here.