By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities. Connected transport and mobility, responsible urbanisation, innovative housing... are the foundations of an intelligent city being laid in Jakarta in the same way as in Genoa or Eindhoven? Clearly not, replied the speakers from the last meeting of the Smart Cities cycle of France Stratégies last June, which provided an opportunity to learn from international initiatives and experiences. From Chendgu to La Rochelle, the intelligent city is plural
How can Smart Cities contribute to the well-being of citizens? What are the levers for creating a culture of sharing and innovation? What are the technical, economic and environmental criteria and the legal and financial arrangements for foreign projects? What are the specific constraints encountered by Southeast Asian cities and the prerequisites for smart city projects?
Ahe Smart City is an international phenomenon that cannot be reduced to a single, uniform model. The Smart Cities concept and phenomenon has a global dimension: it is neither European nor French, nor is it a characteristic of cities in rich countries.
The smart city is plural
Why take an interest in international initiatives and what can we learn from them? These comparisons not only allow us to understand the dynamics of a global phenomenon but also to better identify the nature of Smart Cities. And one conclusion can be drawn from the outset: the smart city is plural, there is no defined development model common to all urban spaces. In other words, all of the world's major cities do not tend to converge towards a single model of planning, organisation and governance. On the contrary, development strategies are different: some cities, such as Vilnius (Lithuania), focus on the digitisation of the population, while others, such as Genoa (Italy), place greater emphasis on citizen participation.
A variable definition depending on the development process
One factor that differentiates European smart cities from other smart cities, particularly those in developing countries, and as such must be taken into account in qualifying the Smart City: the level of progress of the city in the metropolisation process. Indeed, some cities, particularly in South-East Asia, are concerned with the proper functioning of their infrastructures rather than with improving the intelligence of their cities, with urgent urban problems (congestion and lack of public transport, demographic pressure and undersizing of infrastructures, air pollution).
These specificities justify a specific definition of the intelligent city in Asia, based on three pillars as defined by AREP, a design office, a subsidiary of the SNCF, a multidisciplinary company in the development and construction of movement spaces: the reinvention of existing urban infrastructures and the improvement of the living conditions of the inhabitants, with technologies in particular, but also the search for social inclusion.
Variable common characteristics
These characteristics of the Smart City are unique to "Asian" smart cities. And they are in fact different, not only according to the level of progress of these cities in the metropolisation process, but also according to the actor concerned, here the EESC, the EIB and AREP, all three represented at the session: AREP, which we have just presented, is an economic actor therefore, the European Economic and Social Committee is a political body, while the European Investment Bank is a financial institution. Three types of actors with a common characteristic of their European or international dimension, but with different interests, logics and points of view.
The EESC, in a report published in February 2017, identifies six pillars of the smart city: while infrastructure improvements and the energy, technological and digital dimensions are expected, two additional pillars should be mentioned: the provision of education and training, and the financial and economic stability of the projects financed. Thus, the intelligent character of the Smart City also concerns the inhabitants and the way in which the city is financed.
The EIB has only three pillars: sustainable mobility, urban development and energy efficiency. The digital and technological dimension is minimised, as is the social dimension of smart city projects. It is the sustainability of the projects that is at the heart of the financial institution's financing criteria: heavy infrastructure projects require more funding than digital technologies, which have a shorter lifespan because they are quickly affected by obsolescence. The temporal nature of the projects financed is therefore at the heart of the EIB's challenges.
With this international panorama, we seem to be able to identify two major issues that are essential for any smart city, whether in Europe or Asia, the choice of financing and the management of the urban transition, which presupposes, whatever model is chosen, a smart strategy and governance ... smart.