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Increasing Smart City Governance

By Fen Kui, Secretary General, Academic Committee of the Urban and Small Town Reform and Development Center, the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC)

Smart City governance is a current hot topic, both as research and in practice. From a general perspective, research on Smart City governance stems from the implementation of Smart City solutions around the globe. Fueled by multi-subject collaborative innovations, Smart City governance uses information technology to make cities more livable, government services more streamlined, economies more dynamic, ecosystems more accessible, and societies more harmonious.

Reasons for Smart City Governance: Four Demands

Smart City governance has drawn more and more attention in recent years due to these ‘Four Demands:’

• At the national level, modern China not only maintains one of the world’s top Gross Domestic Products (GDP) per capita, but also holds strong soft power, which is mainly reflected in the modernization of the national system of governance, which guarantees sustainable economic development.

• At the city level, the prevention and settlement of urban issues requires smarter city governance. Recent years have witnessed the proliferation of a variety of urban challenges in Chinese cities, especially in the transportation and environmental sectors, which can be remedied using information technologies.

• The public should participate in city governance while enjoying developmental achievements.

• Livelihood requirements: Smart governance is required to deliver increasingly personalized and diversified services for living and working.

Deploying technologies to better serve people is the essence of Smart City governance. Starting with information technologies, we need to mobilize all stakeholders to improve our cities and our lives so we can create a brighter future, and usher in the policy of ‘Putting People First.’ Therefore, information technologies are a fundamental and paramount prerequisite for Smart City governance.

The benefits of Smart City governance include low social costs, efficient and precise government services, and modern urban development. In short, it aims to unleash the full potential of city development in the most sustainable way, at the lowest cost. Intelligence, good governance, innovation, and environmental friendliness are the core concepts behind Smart City governance.

Basic Conditions of Smart City Governance: Development in Four Aspects

The basic conditions of Smart City governance can be summarized as ‘Development in Four Aspects.’

• Development of Information Technologies: In recent years, a new generation of technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), intelligent hardware, new display modes, mobile intelligent terminals, fifth-generation mobile communications, virtual and augmented reality, advanced sensors, and wearable devices are driving the rapid development of information technologies.

• Smart City Development: China embarked on Smart City implementation in 2010, and in recent years has been a successful advocate for the development of new Smart Cities — making substantial progress transforming government services and ‘Putting People First.’

• Deep Integration of Information Technologies and Urban Governance: Information technologies are becoming deeply integrated with urban planning, construction, and operations.

• Government Reform: Streamlining administration, delegating and regulating power, and optimizing services are not only paving the way for smarter city governance, but also creating new requirements.

Model Framework of Smart City Governance

At present, the main research topics of Smart City governance include ownership, policy objectives, content, and implementation. To build the framework for Smart City governance, we can construct a basic model consisting of the ownership, infrastructure, platform resources, and content layers to better analyze its developmental status and issues.

• Ownership: Governance owners include government, enterprises, social organizations, the public, and the media. Through continuous innovation of governance concepts, we need to further clarify the positioning and responsibilities of each subject, accelerate the construction of multi-level governance channels, promote new applications and reward mechanisms, fully mobilize governance owners, and form new multi-owner governance models.

• Infrastructure: City governance requires intelligent infrastructures, which include broadband networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing centers, and intelligent facilities. The comprehensive deployment of intelligent infrastructures supports resource integration, data sharing, and interconnection — laying a solid foundation for smart management.

• Platform Resources: Platform resources support and make up the core elements of city governance. Based on city governance requirements, we need to establish unified and shared databases, build integrated service management platforms, and deliver integrated and intelligent city management services through technology convergence and innovation — providing comprehensive support for every aspect of smart governance.

• Content: City governance is an inevitable choice for promoting multi-dimensional city management, improving government efficiency, and efficiently solving social problems. We need to take comprehensive measures — including mechanism innovation, intelligent control, and collaborative management — in city operations, social security, ecological systems, and environmental and economic development to enable smarter governance.

The City Governance Trend in the Internet Era

The wide application of information technologies, in the Internet era and the continuous innovation of business models are significantly changing city governance, which will feature intelligent awareness, refined management, convenient services, regulated cyberspace, and diversified participants.

• Intelligent City Perception: The Internet, the IoT, and various intelligent terminals will enable the interconnection between individuals, individuals and things, and between things to ensure constant updates and awareness of city operations, which supports the precise public management, personalized services, and general functions that are an important basis for realizing Smart City governance.

• Precise Public Management: Information technology applications and legislation-based city governance promotes information sharing and city organization collaboration, changes the government’s management and service modes, and breaks the boundaries between departments and regions for integrated and precise city governance, which is the key feature of Smart City governance.

• Convenient Livelihood Services: Through ‘Internet +’ modes and platform-based sharing strategies, integrated service resources (and channels) build people-oriented, intelligent city governance services and public service systems; promote social co-governance and sharing; provide favorable environments for citizens; and continuously increase citizen welfare, which is the core objective of Smart City governance.

• Regulated Cyberspace: Through continuously improving the laws and regulations of cyberspace management, regulated cyberspace establishes cyber-security management mechanisms, public opinion monitoring, and cyber-market management systems to promote regulated cyberspace development. This is not only an important feature of Smart City governance, but also an important indicator of a modern city’s management level.

• Diversified Participants: Through institutional and mechanical innovations, including the implementation of legally mandated city governance measures; governments and their citizens are making full use of the Internet to facilitate public participation. This encourages multiple parties to participate in city governance and strengthens the interaction between the government, enterprises, and other stakeholders. The result is an improved sense of achievement for social subjects in urban governance.


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Issue 23 - Smart City Extra

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