Smart City: The Game of the 5Ps

Smart City - Transform PartnerSmart City is the next hot buzzword in the business world, with seminars and events in every capital city of the developing countries. There is no single definition of the ‘Smart City’ as such and it varies from developed to developing and to third world countries. In a city in Africa, smart city can be availability of clean water, access to banks / hospitals / education, where as in developed countries, smart city is expected to have infrastructure for the electric vehicles or drone taxis or hyperloop, all public services online, renewable energy etc.

But still if we have to explain the word ‘Smart City’, it will be:

“A Smart City is an integrated system in which human and social capital interacts, using technology based solutions. It aims to efficiently achieve sustainable and resilient development and a high quality of life on the basis of a multi stakeholder, municipality based partnership.”

Technological advancements have large acceptance among human beings and that’s the reason, now we are looking towards technology to make our life easier in every aspects. Although the concept of Smart City is around technology, but without 5Ps (Plan, People, Pool of Funds, Partners and Peers) it can’t be successful.

Technological solutions must be understood as the tool to achieve the smart city goals and to tackle the challenges cities must face. The main objectives of Smart City projects must be to solve urban problems in an efficient way to improve sustainability of the city and quality of life of its inhabitants. Every city, every country has its own demographics, climate, culture, religion, life style. One plan can’t be applied to all cities across the world. But certain infrastructures have become role model when planning a Smart City. For example, the city transportation system in London, Tokyo, New York or renewable energy system of the Nordics, or Hamburg, the cleanest and one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world.

From the governance point of view, projects must be framed in a multi-stakeholder, municipally based partnership in order to provide complex and effective solutions.

  1. Proper Planning: The most significant driver for smart city development is improving city infrastructures such as energy, water, healthcare, education and transportation systems. And detailed planning is required involving all the stakeholders in the government, private sectors and local communities. To begin with planning the pilot programs, which can deliver results in short durations, gives the boost to the smart city campaign instead to disturbing the whole ecosystem of the city. Smart City is a long term plan and should be implemented in phases. Planning for resources, environment, legal frameworks, data, security, expertise, partners, and vendors plays crucial role in the successful implementation of the CHANGE.
  2. Participation of the People: Second comes the people. Without active involvement of the people (common citizens, academicians, communities, stakeholders etc), smart city can’t function and achieve its goals. People should know and understand the initiative of Smart city and its’ objective. Their participation is very crucial because only sensors or technology implementation won’t serve any purpose if citizen of the city don’t understand them
  3. Pool of Funds: Currently one of the major issues with smart city projects is that they have been initiated with full enthusiasm, but without funds or investment pipeline, they’re losing their shine and have become the fail case studies. There are many innovative ways to arrange the funds from government and private sectors. Successful PPP models can support some of the initiatives of the smart city. (In case you are struggling with funds, please get in touch Transform Partner for consultation. We have many innovative ideas to sort it for your smart city programs).
  4. Partnership: Smart City is a comprehensive program and involves the collaborative approach to achieve its goals. Partnership, collaboration, joint ventures, PPP model and various other arrangements are must to start the pilot projects and to implement it on large scale. Various technology vendors, experts, consultants, legal advisers, investment institutes work together in partnership to successfully create the infrastructure, educate the people, and sustain the projects.
  5. Performance of the Peers: While planning the smart city initiative for your city, always study the case stories of the other smart cities in the world where your peers have implemented the smart city programs or pilot projects and getting the initial success. Peer case studies can help you in understanding what will work better in your city, thus saving lots of time, energy and resources for you. Performance case studies of peers especially in technological challenges like
    – Communication networks
    – Intelligent infrastructure
    – Compute, data storage, and data centers
    – Data analytics
    – Cyber security
    can definitely help you in making your plans.

There are innumerable challenges before the governments to work on Smart City Projects like infrastructure (power, energy, water or transportation), data management or drafting policies and laws, but real impact can only be evaluated from the rise of standards in the lives of the people of the city, the new skills they have for employment or business opportunities for entrepreneurs, economically well being society, healthy and well connected, educated community and clean environment.

Government should begin with a compelling business case, communicate the same to the citizens, and get their reviews and feedback. Start the project in phased manner and let the small successes built the confidence of the stakeholders. Focus on performance and results. Smart city is a long term project. Select 2-3 big changes every year and implement them.

For private sectors, non profits communities, there are currently more than 450 cities that have adopted at least one smart city project, and project partners such as IBM, Cisco, Nokia and Huawei have introduced their platforms and are providing end-to-end solutions for the above mentioned challenges. Look for opportunities to partner with cities. Look for initiatives that match organizational goals. The growing ecosystem of partners in Columbus, Ohio, shows us how non-governmental players can play an important role in driving smart city initiatives. Look beyond just financing smart city initiatives. Identify opportunities that could add value to both the city as well as business. Balancing the risk and reward between public and private entities will be critical.

Citizens are the main force who can actually shape the smart city policies and initiatives with their active participation. Education is a further way that smart cities can relieve apprehension among citizens. By making technology education programmes readily available, city governments can communicate the intrinsic benefits of these projects more easily. Be conscious and vocal about the change that smart city transformation will entail. Garner better understanding around emerging technologies and identify their implications to security and privacy.

The author of the post Raj Grover is the transformation consultant working with several government bodies, city municipalities and stakeholders in the smart city projects across the globe. He is helping them in formulation of the strategies, policies and planning, innovative ideas on arranging pool of funds for long term and technology, digital initiatives to implement the smart city projects in its true spirit on ground. He is the founder of Transform Partner, the digital transformation consultancy based in London and India. He can be reached at: raj(at)