One consistent piece of the mainstream rhetoric around smart cities has been the role of governments and regulation. Professor Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Laboratory and chairman of the World Economic Forum’s global agenda council on the future of cities, wrote a great article about it.
When it comes to implementation models of smart cities, diametric approaches are appearing between the United States and the rest of the world. From Rio de Janeiro to Singapore and Amsterdam, governments quickly tap into the potential of smart cities by massively investing in that area. In the US, however, things are quite different: public sector funding is limited, while the emerging urban startup ecosystem (Uber, Nest, AirBnB…) is thriving.
While acknowledging the importance of regulatory mechanisms, the author also points out the limits of governments:
“They should, at all costs, steer away from the temptation to play a top-down role. It is not their prerogative to decide what the next smart-city solution should be – or to use their citizens’ money to bolster the position of the technology multinationals now in this field. Conversely, they should create all the conditions to grow innovation ecosystems.”
One important thing to consider is the need for chaos to innovate. That’s an interesting stance to take and one I think I can really get behind. It seems counterintuitive; but when I think about the most creative solutions, they often emerge and thrive in less regulated environments. In other words, a little chaos might create a better organic, responsive and bottom-up innovation ecosystem geared toward smart cities.