Innovation City = Strong + Smart City
The recent Innovation City conference hosted by the MaRS Discovery District and sponsored by IBM and their Smarter Cities Challenge stirred much needed debate around the future of Canadian urban centers. Typical conversation around infrastructure, transit, talent attraction and retention was framed by the need to enhance information infrastructure to better manage the challenges and complexities of urban development and growth. “Smarter Cities” mean enhanced connectivity and fluid understanding and application of technology in cities.
Missing from the conversation though, was an understanding of “digital citizen”. What does it mean for a city to have millions of its citizens connected and sharing information? Can citizen connectivity enhance urban economic development? Of course it can. Active citizens are hacking municipal data and making apps that enhance quality of life. They are using kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise money through crowd-sourcing for infrastructure investment they want.
Citizen engagement is fundamental to cultivating a vibrant city. With more and more citizens using technology to connect and enhance their local community, it’s time for municipal leaders to consider how harnessing this and engaging their citizens can benefit urban vitality.