Today’s city living is falling short of citizens’ increased expectations in the digital age. This is according to a report from the Capgemini Research Institute that explored responses from 10,000 citizens and over 300 city officials across 10 countries and 58 cities. It found that many citizens are frustrated with the current set up of the city in which they live and are prepared to show their opinion by leaving for a more digitally advanced city. On average, 40 percent of residents may leave their city in the future due to a variety of pain points including digital frustrations.
The report “Street Smart: Putting the citizen at the center of Smart City initiatives” reveals that more than half of citizens (58 percent) perceive smart cities as sustainable and that they provide a better quality of urban services (57 percent). That explains why more than a third of them (36 percent) are willing to pay more for this enriched urban existence. However, serious challenges to implementation exist, particularly in terms of data and funding.
Capgemini has found that only one in ten city officials say they are in the advanced stages of implementing a smart city vision, and less than a quarter (only 22 percent) have begun implementing smart city initiatives – a particular challenge as two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in a city by 2050, with the number of megacities set to rise from 33 today to 43 by 2030. Moreover, there is a considerable global desire for smart cities among citizens, meaning an accelerated approach would be well received.
The key to unlocking an improved urban life
According to the Capgemini report, sustainability is of increased importance for urbanites. Citizens find challenges such as pollution (42 percent) and of lack of sustainability initiatives (36 percent) a major concern and may leave their city as a result. However, over the past three years, 42 percent of city officials say that sustainability initiatives have lagged, and 41 percent say their cities becoming unsustainable over the next 5 to 10 years is one of the top five consequences of not adopting digital technology.
While smart city initiatives can lead to improvements across urban services, Capgemini has found that perception is key, and that the benefits aren’t just limited to tangible outcomes. Citizens using smart city initiatives are happier with the quality of their city life. For example, 73 percent say they are happier with their quality of life in terms of health factors, such as air quality. However, this drops sharply to 56 percent among those who have not used a smart city initiative. More than a third of citizens are willing to pay to live in a smart city. This figure rises for younger and richer citizens: 44 percent among millennials, 41 percent among Gen Z respondents and 43 percent among those earning more than $80,000.
Data and funding are critical implementation challenges
Although smart cities can solve some of the traditional pain points experienced in cities, such as public transport and security, serious challenges to implementation exist. Data is central to smart city optimization, yet 63 percent of global citizens say the privacy of their personal data is more important than superior urban services. Meanwhile, almost 70 percent of city officials say that funding their budget is a major challenge, and 68 percent of officials say they struggle to access and build the digital platforms needed to develop smart city initiatives. From a citizens’ perspective, 54 percent think BigTech firms would provide better urban services than those currently in place.